Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has explained why he summoned Saturday’s meeting of the militant group in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state.
In a statement issued on July 24, Friday, Tompolo stressed that the meeting was aimed at deepening the prevailing peace in the area.
There were fears in the region that the planned meeting was meant to restart the war in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
In order to allay fears, Tompolo stressed in his statement: “The tension generated by the meeting is uncalled for, diversionary and mischievous as no evil is intended in whatever form”.
“I am compelled to clarify issues as they relate to the meeting of the leadership of ex-agitators under the platform of MEND and other organisations summoned at my instance.
“The nation would recall that in the build up to the Amnesty offer of the late president, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, there was hesitance on the part of most of Niger Delta agitators until God in His infinite mercy, granted me wisdom to provide leadership.
“The nation will also recall that under the Amnesty programme as inherited by the immediate past president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, relative peace was enjoyed even as security of lives and property was enhanced to an appreciable level.
“Also, oil production increased from 700,000 barrels per day to 2.5million barrels per day. Put simply, hitherto aggrieved Niger-Delta youths who inadvertently became agitators, upon the acceptance of the Amnesty offer, refrained from armed agitation to face normal urban life”.
Tompolo admitted that he had to summon the meeting because of the overpowering pressure mounted on him and other MEND leaders by ex-agitators and other beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme. He also confirmed there was apprehension in the region over the continued delay by the federal government in paying monthly stipends to the beneficiaries.
“While some of us understand to an extent, the apparent delay in the continued payment of the monthly stipend to the ex-agitators in view of the seeming scrutiny of government agencies, including the Amnesty Office by the current administration, same cannot be said of the majority of beneficiaries of the Amnesty programme.
“To this extent, some of us, particularly myself and other leaders have been under intense pressure from ex-agitators commanders, individuals, parents and guardians as well as communities who are beneficiaries of the Amnesty programme.
“While a few see the delay in the payment of their monthly stipends in the light of the need for the current government to settle in properly, others see the delay as a template to stop the programme. The expulsion of some students (home and overseas) by their schools and training institutions particularly has heightened these fears.
“Hence, I thought it wise that a meeting of the collegiate leadership of the platform under which we operated as agitators could be convened to appraise the situation and possibly, explore means to douse the tension that is growing among the disarmed youths whose stipends (training allowances and tuition fees) have been delayed for months.
“This becomes more compelling in view of the fact that as leaders of the platform that served as midwife to the Amnesty offer, we owe the nation a duty to play our roles in order to stem a relapse of the relative peace in the Niger Delta Region,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Niger Delta ex-militants who study abroad under the scholarship programme of the federal government amnesty initiative have lamented their unpaid allowances and called on the government to address the problem.
The ex-militants called on President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a special adviser and chairman of the amnesty committee to ease their sufferings.