No fewer than 950 youths who claimed to be former Niger Delta freedom fighters have expressed dismay over their non inclusion in the Federal Government’s amnesty programme and called on Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State to intervene.
This was a fallout of their meeting held at the weekend in Eket Local Government Area where the former militants converged to take a position on the matter.
The Spokesman of the group, Commander Ebong Friday, recalled that the former Governor Godswill Akpabio had reached agreement with them with a view to accommodating the aggrieved members, but regretted that Governor Emmanuel has reneged on the pact.
He said that the state government had neglected its members since they dropped their arms in the Federal Government Amnesty Programme.
The former militants, who gave the Governor one week to address the challenges faced by members, threatened to disrupt activities in Akwa Ibom Airport, ExxonMobil and vandalized oil pipelines of other oil firms operating in Akwa Ibom including Frontier Oil Limited (FOL).
“It is very unfortunate that the state government is taking us for granted, we dropped our arms at the course of the Presidential Amnesty Programme and chose to embrace peace.”
“The Akwa Ibom Government called for amnesty and we surrendered our arms with an agreement that they would train us and integrate us.
“After we voluntarily dropped our arms to embrace peace so that we can achieve what they had promised us, they turned their back on us,’’ he lamented.
He recalled that since 2011 when his colleagues dropped their arms, the state government had not taken them into consideration.
“After we dropped our arms, we went for training at Obubra, and came back, since then, there is no government response. Any time we go to governor’s office and they would tell us to exercise patience and wait; now we have ran out of patience…”, he warned.
According to him, “the essence of the meeting was to brainstorm on the livelihood of our members and also to register our grievances to the state government”.
Friday said that the group gives the state government one week ultimatum to response to their plight else they would go back to the creeks.
He said that “about 950 members are yet to be integrated and documented in the Federal Government Amnesty programmes, noting that several letters had been written to the state government but no response”.
“I want Governor Emmanuel to revisit the earlier agreement done by his predecessor, because we have so many people we are catering for, otherwise they would have allowed us to continue in the creeks, instead of bringing us to the world and abandon us,’’ Friday said.
He appealed to the State government to integrate their members in the youth’s empowerment programme of this administration, pointing out that “about 100 youths were taken to Israel for Agricultural training, 150 for Car Assembly Programme and 1,000 youths are being trained on Oracle Certification Training in ICT, lamenting that non of his members were beneficiaries.
“We want them to integrate us in these programmes; if we try all avenues and nothing is done, we will be forced to do otherwise. If the government is ready to cooperate with us, we are also ready to cooperate with them too.
“What we are looking for now is for the government to integrate us, empower us and make us relevant in this state because we are all from Akwa Ibom,’’ he said.
– Iniobong Ekponta, Uyo