From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Hundreds of former militants yesterday protested the continued delay in the payment of their allowances.
The militants from Bayelsa and Rivers states blocked Mbiama Junction which left many travellers on the East-West Road stranded for several hours.
Governor Seriake Dickson had, on Sunday, appealed to former militants to exercise patience with the Federal Government over the delay in the payment of their allowances but, his plea was rebuffed as they barricaded the road yesterday and chanted war songs against the federal government.
Armed with placards with different inscriptions, they demanded payment of their allowances.
They accused the Amnesty Office of attempting to trigger violence in the Niger Delta by deliberately withholding their allowances for four months.
Soldiers and other security personnel were drafted to the scene to forestall any breakdown of law and order.
It took the intervention of the Commander of the special joint security outfit in the Niger Delta, code named Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie and some officials of the amnesty office before the former agitators could open the road to traffic.
Okojie urged them to be patient with the authorities, assuring that their stipends would be paid.
Meanwhile, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta/Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (retd) has assured former agitators in the Niger Delta the stipends would be paid this week.
Boroh, reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment towards re-engineering the amnesty programme in their favour.
In a statement by the Amnesty Liaison Officer, Mr. Preye Kiryamon, Boroh said his office was doing everything possible to ensure that their stipends were paid as at when due,
He pointed out that it would be counter-productive for former agitators to protest at a time the federal government was making efforts to address the challenges facing the programme.
The amnesty boss called on all agitators in the Niger Delta to shun acts inimical to public peace and added that hoodlums could hijacksuch anti-social actions, like violent street protests, to cause mayhem on innocent and law-abiding citizens, to discredit the programme and embarrass government.
A leader of the third phase of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, Mr. John Ebi, has also appealed to his colleagues to be patient.
Ebi said plans are ongoing to ensure that the stipends are paid this week.
Also, a former agitator under the first phase of the programme and Executive Director of Peace Advocates Outreach, Chief Jephtah Kalaiti added his voice to the call for restraint.
He appealed to former agitators to listen and give the amnesty office the benefit of the doubt.