Jubilations as 400 renounce militancy, surrender weapons in Ondo
The amnesty programme of the Ondo State Government has started yielding positive results as restive youths in the coastal part of the state are surrendering their arms. The programme was said to be a follow up to the Federal Government’s programme organised for militants in the Niger Delta region to prevent breakdown of law and order including oil bunkering.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu had set up a committee chaired by his deputy, Mr Agboola Ajayi, with members including Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Donald Ojogo to initiate measures at finding a lasting solution to militancy in the state. Those affected by the amnesty programme are youths from Ese-Odo and Ilaje local government areas in Ondo South Senatorial District, the two local government areas that fall under the Niger Delta region.
The governor who gave a 21-day ultimatum to the youths to surrender their arms and ammunition, also tasked the committee to ensure that the youths who surrender their arms are compensated adequately, while stipends are given to ex-militants.
To facilitate quick response to the request, government also directed the committee to open office in Akure, the state capital, with five centres in the two affected LGs. The committee had since its inauguration been working with the office of the Special Adviser to the president on Niger Delta Affairs and chairman of the Federal Government’s amnesty programme.
The governor had urged traditional rulers to support the programme, just as he called on the militants to embrace the programme in the interest of peace and development. No fewer than 100 militants openly surrendered their arms during the first meeting of the committee held at Igbokoda in Ilaje LG.
Akeredolu warned that, “government will henceforth take harsh steps to curtail militancy. Our country cannot continue to be in crisis. It is time we embrace peace and shun crisis.” He assured them that government would provide jobs for militants who willingly surrendered their arms, adding that the government would organise trainings for them to make them relevant in the society.
He urged traditional rulers whose community falls under the Niger Delta region to encourage militants to surrender their arms and embrace the amnesty programme, stressing that the programme was specifically designed for militants from the area.
In what appears as a quick response to the governor’s request, another set of 300 militants surrendered their arms, increasing the number to over 400 in less than two weeks. The ex-militants trooped out in large numbers to the five centres located at Igbekebo, Arogbo, Igbonla, Ajapa and Igbokoda.
Men of the Nigeria Army, the Navy, Police and those of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), as well as representatives of each of the militant camps were said to be present at the collection centers to ensure only authentic militants benefitted from the programme.
Ajayi said the amnesty programme was part of the requests made by the suspected kidnappers of the six students of Igbonla Model School, Epe, Lagos State, who were arrested in Ondo State: “Already, the repentant militants are continuously submitting their arms, which included pump action, dane guns, live ammunition and locally made artillery weapons.”
He said he had toured all the collection points and was delighted with the level of turnout of the repentant armed youths who he said came out from creeks to submit their weapons to embrace the amnesty programme.
He called on those in the hideout to utilize the opportunity offered by the government: “Whoever fails to utilise the opportunity would be dealt with by the Federal Government and the Ondo State Government at the end of the day.”
Commanding Officer of the Nigeria Navy Forward Operation Base, lgbokoda, Chindo Usman Yahaya, described the turnout as impressive: “It would be difficult to ascertain the number of weapons submitted since the commencement of the exercise, but the turnout is impressive and I implore others who are still in their hideouts to come out and surrender their arms.”
One of the repentant commanders of the armed youths, Osipapa Take Lion, lauded the federal and Ondo state governments for the privilege given to them to lay down their arms. He urged his colleagues to embrace the exercise by coming out to submit their weapons, assuring them that he would do everything within his capacity to ensure that members of the various militant groups surrender their arms.
Also speaking Jato Lucky who claimed to be a leader of one of the militant groups expressed gratitude to Akeredolu, saying the amnesty would guarantee peace and tranquility: “We were left with no option at that time to team up with others to form the militant group. It was not easy but we enjoyed doing it because we believed we were fighting for the rights of our people.”
He said the alleged marginalization by previous administrations led them to militancy: “We were marginalized and we felt the only way by which we could defend our rights was to form a formidable group to fight for the rights of our people.
“We went through series of turbulence at that time because many times the security agents were on our necks looking for us. Many of us died in the process, while some of us survived the hard times.” He called on the people, especially youths to support the programme and make it work in the interest of peace in the region.
The Olugbo of Ugbo kingdom, Oba Fredrick Akinruntan, advised government to ensure that only genuine militants benefit from the amnesty programme. He stressed the need for government to appoint only indigenes of the oil producing areas as officials of the amnesty programme: “The programme is a welcome development and this will help in ensuring security in both the state and the country.”