In less than 24 hours to the deadline of an amnesty, offered by the Federal government of Nigeria, a Key fighter, Tompolo is preparing to surrender with more than 3,000 of his follow fighters. This was made known yesterday, to Vanguard, one of Nigerians’ leading newspapers.
The ceremony, according to Vanguard, will take place in one of the creek communities in Gbaramatu kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government, Delta State. Leading the Federal Government delegation to receive the armaments would be the Minister of Defence, Major-General Godwin Abbe (rtd), who is also the chairman of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of the Militants.
They are expected to surrender about 500 weapons.
“Spokesman of the traditional ruler of Gbaramatu kingdom and member of the Delta Waterways Security Committee (DWSC), Chief Dennis Otuaro confirmed to Saturday Vanguard that His Royal Majesty, Pere Godwin Bebenimibo practically prevailed on Tompolo, who is one of his subjects to accept amnesty and surrender his arms to the government,” Vanguard.
The militant has recently called for the extension of the amnesty program, scheduled to end tomorrow, 4th of October, but the federal government did not listen. In this crucial moment, however, Tompolo is said to be acting on good fate, for the betterment of the Niger Delta.
In a talk between Vanguard and one of Tompolo’s Lieutenants yesterday, some of his intentions were highlighted.
“He wants the Federal Government to demilitarize the Niger-Delta.
He does not believe the military has any role to play in the oil and gas sector and he strongly thinks that anything security in the creek communities should be left to the host communities to handle.
You see, what the soldiers do behind the scene in the oil communities is terrible, those who posted them there and stay in Yenagoa, Warri and Abuja do not know what is going on.
For instance, few days ago, there was a shooting incidence where soldiers, who have been occupying Camp 5 since they attacked and took over the place in May, just started shooting indiscriminately at the direction of the village, causing panic everywhere.
Their leader there claimed he got information that some people wanted to attack them, but, the authorities found out it was true, I think they invited the person that gave the order to shoot… The point I am making is that these soldiers are overzealous in the way they do things and leaving them around will cause more problem.
Above all, he wants the government to have a concrete post-amnesty plan for the people they are making to lay down their arms.
You cannot tell them to go and form cooperative society of say 10 persons in one group, after which you will give a group N1 million and tell them to start something with it, what will somebody do with N100,000 capital, the government should make adequate plan.
Tompolo asked for extension of time to enable him contact his boys that are scattered in the creeks with arms.
Has he been able to do that before deciding to hand over?
Well, some people were creating a wrong impression that he was asking for extension of the deadline in order to buy time and acquire more arms to fight the government. But that is not his intention at all.
You see, this is a man that is already rich but he is concerned about the sufferings and deprivations of his people.
He wanted a thorough job to be done because it will be bad for the government if after setting a time to the amnesty programme, the thing fails because some people who ought to accept amnesty and surrender arms did not do so because certain things, which ought to be done correctly were not done.
Now, that they seem to be in so much hurry and people are pressurizing him to surrender, he has reached out to those he was able to reach, and will, therefore, surrender the weapons he has at least to let them know that he is not against amnesty and also prove those who are painting him as a Devil wrong.
I learnt he is going to submit up to 500 weapons?
Let us not speculate on the number yet until he surrenders. He is not a dishonest person. Remember the JTF told the whole world that they invaded Camp 5 and other satellite branches and confiscated all their weapons, which the militants abandoned.
They also told you people (press) that they ransacked our armoires all that. If Tompolo was not a straightforward person, he would accept amnesty and leave his arms, claiming he has no arms to surrender since the JTF said they have seized our arms, but, he is desirous to help the government to mop up all the arms in the possession of his men and he only asked for extension of time for a thorough job to be done but since they don’t want to extend the time and want him to surrender whatever he has, he is going to do that.
But is it not true that he and others were planning a counter attack under the auspices of MEND after the deadline?
That is the misinformation and misrepresentation I am talking about. Some people are deliberately misconstruing him and dishing out such information and it’s because he wants to prove them wrong that he has decided to surrender.
He does not want anybody to launch attack on his people under the pretext that he refused to surrender. So the government should take it the way they see it thereafter.”
Niger Delta has one of the highest oil deposits in the world; whereas, the local people and their land are everything about poverty. The militants are fighting for a better share of the oil revenue. They have cut Nigerian oil production, the biggest in Africa by more than half, in the past few years of their emergence.
The amnesty was to remedy the situation.
Militant Commanders, Ateke Tom and Farah Dagogo surrendered their weapons today, Saturday with hundreds of their loyalists, chanting on the streets of Port Harcourt.
Next on the list to surrender are Tompolo and his men.
As the less than 24 hours run down, expectations are high of what the amnesty will really produce in concrete terms.
Ewanfoh Obehi Peter
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