The militants in Ondo State have been given 21 days to submit their weapons so as to be listed in the expanded amnesty programme of the Nigerian government.
They will also only be listed for amnesty with the submission of their weapons at the various centres opened for the submission weapons in Ilaje and Ese-Odo local governments.
The Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, gave the conditions on Thursday in Akure during the opening of the amnesty programme for the militants. The programme is being coordinated by the Ondo State Amnesty Programme headed by the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi.
The ceremony was attended by a large number of the militants, traditional rulers and officials of the Nigerian Army, the Police, Navy and Nigerian Securities and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
The federal government through the Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta, Paul Boro, had stated that the federal amnesty programme would not be expanded to include fresh agitators. However, while states are free to have their own programmes, Mr. Akeredolu indicated Ondo State’s was being done with the cooperation of the federal government.
Mr. Akeredolu, while addressing the militants, said his government was determined to ensure the programme succeeds and administered only to those it was meant for. According to him, only those who submitted weapons would be listed for the amnesty programme.
“What we want is for all to surrender their weapons. When you bring the weapons, it will be noted and something good will follow,” the governor told the militants.
“Some people want to be listed in the amnesty programme when they had nothing or gun to submit. We have 21 days to do this, we will submit the weapons in five collection centres of Ajakpa, Igbokoda, Arogbo, Ugbonla, and Igbekebo.”
He also warned that the programme would not be done in the palaces of the traditional rulers, but at the designated centres, saying the government would ensure that only those who are genuine militants would be captured.
He added that with peace returning to the region, there would be an expected increase in economic activities that would enhance the well-being of the riverine communities and provide employments for the youth.
He also thanked President Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, for accepting to include the militants in the amnesty programme.
Also speaking, the Brigade Commander of the 32 Artillery Brigrade Akure, Charles Ofoche, said the militants must take advantage of the window of opportunity or ”face dire consequences.”
“Today is a milestone in the quest for peace not only in the Niger Delta region, but also in the country,” Mr. Ofoche, a brigadier general, said.
“Let me call on those still bearing arms to take advantage of the amnesty now provided by the government.
There can be no meaningful development without peace. The consequences of not taking advantage of this opportunity will be very grave.
“The last thing we would want to do is to go after them. They are our brothers and we don’t want to call anyone militants again.”
In his address, the Ondo deputy governor recalled the history of armed struggles within the Niger Delta, saying the various clashes had resulted in the proliferation of weapons within the region.
He said the politicisation of the amnesty programme saw the exclusion of some of the militants from the existing programme of the federal government.
“As a way of fostering peace through dialogue, the state government with the support of the federal government came up with a plan to clean up the riverine communities of arms through yet another opportunity”, Mr. Ajayi said.
“Today’s occasion, which is the widening of the Federal Government Amnesty Programme through the efforts of Mr. Governor should therefore be seen as an ample opportunity that youth of Ilaje and Ese-Odo must maximise to their advantage. Mr Governor’s magnanimity is such a laudable one that all stakeholders must key into it,” he added.