Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants in the Niger Delta has been up and doing in getting various militant groups in the Niger Delta to embrace the Federal Government Amnesty deal.
The Media Coordinator of the panel, Dr. Timebi Koripamo Agary during a media chat said, “as a daughter and mother of the Niger Delta, I understand the pain, I understand the anger.
But it is time to go beyond pain; it is time to leave anger behind, we need to focus on what matters most at this point in time: creating a better future for us, for our children and those who are coming after us; without peace, we cannot develop. But having said that, I also understand the issues at the heart of the struggle, which is their personal safety, what will happen to them after they come out.
My message to them is always the same: it is time for you to come out and take your rightful place in the society. It is time to come out and represent yourself rather than others representing you, it is time the issues that forced you into the creeks are put on the national table. Mr. President has said he will listen and we have every reason to believe him. The amnesty and release of Henry Okah testify to the commitment of the Federal Government on this issue. It is time to leave the past behind and move forward into the future. And that future begins now with you accepting the amnesty.”
Reiterating the Presidential instruction that all militants should embrace peace in the name of amnesty between 6th of August and 4th of October, the move, she expatiated, is a way of integrating the militants back into the society and not just collection of arms.
Dr. Timebi Koripamo Agary, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, spoke on other issues on Amnesty.
On Governors support
She said that the panel had been able to meet with the Governors of each state in the Niger delta who, conscious of the fact of the consequence on the security of their states, had pledged their support. According to her, “as the state chief security officer, they equally want peace in their various states” on the strength of their assurance, she affirmed, “the whole programme will be a successful one at the end of the two-month window.”
How to ascertain that all arms were submitted
“The whole programme is not just about militants submitting their weapons, but it has a broader objective to integrate them back into the society, to help them to find their feet and be somebody in life. We have been talking to the various parties in the struggle; we have talked to MEND and JTF, and some others groups. We have assured them that this is not a booby trap or another wish-washy programme like those brokered previously. Their concerns b on the issues of trust and their security, and on these, we have assured them we have the support of the Governors. We have to give the government a chance in other to move forward. They have to consider the Presidential directive which says that once a militant signs the dotted lines, he/she will be absolved of all crimes committed and then the rehabilitation proper can commence.”
Identifying the real militants
“We have been talking to militants in the Bakassi region, and so far we are getting positive results from the militants, all their leaders are tired of living like fugitives. They are ready to renounce their membership as militants and embrace amnesty. You will be surprised that even in the creeks they are organized like every normal organization; in all the camps they have leaders. Since the leaders know all their followers, all they need to do is to compile the names of their boys and make sure they all come out and renounce their membership. Then the presidential, unconditional pardon is theirs.”
In the same breadth she tried to correct a misconceptions.
“We are not giving anybody money for renouncing their membership; what we have for them is a form of rehabilitation, an arrangement by which those that are still young and can go to school will be given scholarships, those that can learn a vocation will be properly set up, and those with business ideas will equally be helped out. So the rumour that Federal Government is giving them millions of money is false. Nobody will be given cash, except his or her daily allowances for feeding and maintenance.
Challenges before the panel
“Our greatest challenge is that of trust. Trust between the Government and the militants, given that there are antecedent that has really dented the image of the government. They felt this could be another booby trap. They still remembered how in the past government tricked Asari Dokubo, when he was invited to Abuja for a meeting only for him to be arrested.
However, I think the release of Henry Okah has really helped us a lot because now they believe what we tell them to an extent. Just last week, I invited one of them to Abuja for a meeting. Initially he was skeptical about the invitation. But when he got to Abuja, he was surprised, when he realized there was no difference between himself and others around him. He was quick to point it out that he couldn’t remember the last time he walked like a free man without having to look back over his shoulders. He was more surprised when nobody accosted him or tried to harass him all through his stay in Abuja till he went back to where he came from.”http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/news/national/2009/aug/18/national-18-08-2009-17.htm