By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South- West
FOR three consecutive days, some aggrieved ex-militants in Ondo State took to the street to protest alleged hijack of the Amnesty slots by politicians in the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state for political patronage.
The aggrieved former militants are also angry that politicians have used the slots meant for them, to empower their family members, cronies and girlfriends.
As a way of expressing their anger, their protest disrupted activities at the Ondo State Oil- Producing Area Development Commission, OSOPADEC, in Oba Ile area of Akure, Ondo State.
They also went as far as picketing the commission to drive home their demands. They accused the government of mishandling the Amnesty programme and so directed their grievances at the state government.
Aside this, they lamented that they were deceived into laying down their arms and ammunition while the assurance to be incorporated into the programme remained unfulfilled.
As a way of showing the seriousness in their protest, the ex-militants threatened to resume hostilities in the Niger-Delta creeks.
They equally warned oil companies in the state to vacate the coastal areas of the state.
Besides this, the protesting former militants prevented OSOPADEC staff from gaining entry into their offices, just as vehicular movement was brought to a standstill during the three- day protest.
The protesters set up bonfire and placed fetish items at the entrance of the commission.
Fear, however, enveloped the Oba-Ile community where the commission is situated.
Ex-militants call for probe
The deployment of policemen by the state Police Command did not assuage the feelings of the militants who called for the probe of the programme in the state by the Federal Government.
They described the Amnesty programme initiated by the Ondo State Government between November 9 and November 21, 2017 as a sham and also accused the government officials of allotting the slots to their friends, allies and girlfriends.
It is instructive to note that the protesting former militants were responsible for the kidnap of the six students of Lagos Model College, Igbonla, Epe in Lagos State; the Arepo pipeline vandalisation and several attacks in the South-West.
One of the conditions of surrendering their arms and ammunition in Ondo State was the assurance of being incorporated into the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
Led by Ogailo Iborry Young to the Collection and Documentation of Arms Centre in Ajapa Community, Ese-Odo area of the state, the militants submitted weapons such as rocket launchers, Browning machine gun, one General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), Daewoo K3, Colt Automatic Rifles, Breda 30, Fiat Revelli Modelling, several AK 47 rifles, one Rocket Launcher, CETME Ameli, Heckler Koch MG4, tens of Pump Action rifles and some Automatic Cartridges.
As a way of absorbing them into the programme, the Ondo State Government, in conjunction with the Presidential Amnesty Office, opened a fresh window of opportunity.
Consequently, the state Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu gave the armed youths and the militants in the creeks a 21-day period of grace to turn in their arms.
Protest against Ondo Govt
The aggrieved ex militants are under the aegis of United Sea-Wolf Avengers, the Niger-Delta Militant Vanguard, the Awaja Camp, Dragon Camp and the Lion Camp.
They displayed placards with inscription such as ‘Nigeria and Ondo State Government Are Playing Upon Our Intelligence’, ‘Ondo State Politicians Have Hijacked Amnesty Slots’, ‘We Are Regretting Laying Down Our Arms and Ammunition’ and ‘All The Generals Say No To The Amnesty Slot.’
According to them: “We were deceived into laying down our arms. All the promises are yet to be fulfilled. They have abandoned us. They refused to incorporate us into the programme but have incorporated their family members, girlfriends and political allies.
Speaking with newsmen during the protest, leader of the ex-militants, General Deji Ehinmowo alleged that the Amnesty programme was being used for political patronage and empowerment by the ruling APC leaving out the real militants who were cajoled to surrender their arms and ammunition.
Ehinmowo said: “Some politicians in the state have hijacked the Amnesty programme and allotted the slots to their friends and supporters.
He said that the group had given prior notice to the Directorate of State Service and Nigeria Navy in Ilaje Local Government about the hijack of the slots by politicians.
According to him, the military was supposed to determine those to be enrolled, not politicians who allocated the slots to their cronies.
He said: “We don’t believe in politicians, all we want is to be incorporated because we have already submitted our guns. We were told that 2,000 militants held in Ondo State will be incorporated with the over one million militants incorporated in the 2009 Amnesty Proclamation by the Federal Government.
“But we are surprised about the attitude of political leaders in the state Amnesty Board who manipulated the issues by not recognising the real militants that submitted their guns for amnesty.
“We also know that APC, at the federal level is fighting corruption, but we don’t know why Ondo State Amnesty committee is manipulating and jeopardising our amnesty slots.
“It is unfortunate that Ondo State Amnesty committee has hijacked the programme by giving out slots to their political members without considering the real militants that submitted their weapons to government.”
Meanwhile, the protesting ex-militants have asked all the oil companies operating in the coastal communities in the state to vacate over the failure of the government to meet up their demands in Amnesty programme.
Govt absolves self
Reacting to the protest, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Yemi Olowolabi, said those involved in the protest were not former militants, but “a group of jobless and disgruntled elements masquerading themselves as ex-militants.”
Exonerating the state government, Olowolabi said the number of ex-militants captured during the biometric exercise was 4000 but said the number of forms from Abuja was 1000.
Olowolabi said the leaders from various camps were invited where they harmonised the forms within themselves and distributed the forms.