Militants in Ondo State seeking to tender their arms and ammunitions in order to benefit from the Nigerian government’s amnesty program have accused some politicians in the state of hijacking the program for personal gain.
The aggrieved militants, some under the aegis of the United Sea Wolf Avengers, alleged that the politicians were allocating the slots in the program to their friends and children.
They spoke on Thursday in separate interviews with journalists in Akure at the Official Proclamation of Amnesty for the Armed Youths in the Niger Delta Areas of Ondo State.
The Ondo State government had announced on October 23 that it would incorporate militants in the state into the amnesty program if they were willing to surrender their arms. The program in the state is being managed by Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi in collaboration with the federal government.
Speaking to our correspondent, one of the militants, who identified himself simply as Jackson, accused Ondo and Delta State politicians of using the program to benefit their friends and relatives. He specifically accused the Ondo State deputy governor of creating a list of amnesty beneficiaries who are not militants.
Jackson said the real militants would still resume hostilities and crime in the riverine areas if the government fails to conduct the program in a transparent matter.
“We want the federal government to know that some politicians in Ondo and Delta states have hijacked this amnesty program and are not willing to give it to those who really deserved it.
“Nigerians should not blame us when we resume our hostilities in the Niger Delta regions of the two states because the purpose of the program is now being defeated by the action of the politicians.
“We all welcomed the development when the state (Ondo) announced to give us amnesty in support with the federal government, but the way it has been hijacked by the politicians is worrisome.
“Many of us are aware of the fake lists being carried along by Mr. Agboola Ajayi, the Ondo State deputy governor, and we have related with our boys in Lagos creeks not to succumb to pressure until the government shows transparency,” Jackson said.
He added that many of the militants are still camping out in the creeks of the Niger Delta states, especially in Ondo, Delta and Lagos.
Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu stated that the militants should not fear relinquishing their arms and weapons.
Mr. Akeredolu said the state government will be issuing a 21-day ultimatum to the militants to surrender their arms and embrace the amnesty program.
He urged Niger Delta to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them in order to live better lives.
According to the governor, the Niger Delta areas of the state cannot witness meaningful development when there is no peace.
“The problems of the region have been compounded by brigandage. No serious investor will consider the possibility of engaging in any meaningful transaction with the government and the people of a place where security is not assured,” Mr. Akeredolu said.
He said militants can submit their weapons to the government at five centers in the state: Ajapa, Igbekebo, Igbokoda, Ugbo’nla, and Igbokoda.
The governor added that the state government will strengthen the amnesty program with the support of the traditional rulers in the affected areas.
Earlier, Mr. Ajayi said the activities of the armed youths in the riverine areas had caused the breach in peace being enjoyed for several years.
Mr. Ajayi also lamented the failure of past governments to control the level at which arms were being stocked, which created room for their acquisition by the youths.
He later traced the genesis of arms proliferation in the Niger Delta areas of the state to the crisis between Ilaje and Ijaw in the late 1990s.
Oba Fredrick Akinruntan, the embattled Olugbo of Ugbo Kingdom, bemoaned the rate at which the youths in the areas were taking to crime and thereby threatening the peace of the riverine communities.
The monarch explained that the amnesty program was a welcome development and pleaded with the troublesome youths involved in crime and militancy to quickly embrace the program offered by the government.
He, however, asked the governor to give the task of identifying the real militants to the traditional rulers in the domains to show transparency and avoid fraud.
“We know our real people (militants) and know those carrying arms in our domain; we will give you the real people and not the fakes.
“If you come to our domain, we will know how to organize the armed youths, not people who are not from Ilaje and Ese Odo areas of the state,” he said.