COMMANDER of the Joint Task Force, JTF, on the Niger-Delta, Major-General Sarkin Yarkin-Bello, said, yesterday, that he was excited at the take-off of the training of 20,192 ex-militants by the Federal Government at Obubra in Cross River State, just as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, opted to keep sealed lips.
However, investigations by Vanguard showed that most stakeholders in the region had no concrete information on the training programme for ex-militants, and did not seem to understand what the government was up to.
MEND spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, said in response to an electronic mail inquiry by Vanguard: “I am afraid we do not have any comments for now. It will be reserved for a future date at an appropriate time.”.
Chairman of the defunct Niger-Delta Technical Committee, NTDC, Mr. Ledum Mitee told Vanguard, when contacted, that he was not in a position to say anything about the on-going training programme as he had no concrete information about the programme.
He said: “What do you want me to say? I am handicapped, I don’t have any concrete information to say anything. I don’t know what the training entails and what happens to the ex-militants after the training. Where do they go after there? I don’t know, you can see my problem.”
However, Niger-Delta activist, Chief Bello Oboko said: “The post-amnesty programme should be saved from becoming an old wine in a new bottle.”
Oboko who said he had no scruple with what Special Adviser on Niger Delta, Mr. Timi Alaibe and FEHN were doing, however, noted that he was amazed that the government “did not appreciate their efforts as it arrogantly went ahead to dissolve the board of the NDDC in their thirst for blood.”
Major-General Yarkin-Bello who met with Mr. Alaibe in Abuja on Monday said: “I did not hesitate to tell him that the Federal Government is doing a good job. Honestly, I must tell you, this is a milestone. I am so filled with joy to see this day, I am happy that we have reached the level where training of ex-militants has commenced in the region.
This is good, every patriotic Nigerian should be happy of this and support the Federal Government to make it a resounding success.”
At press time, more than 1000 ex-militants had arrived the NYSC Orientation Camp in Obubra Local Government Area of Cross River State to undertake the Rehabilitation and Re-Orientation programme. Speaking at the camp, a member of the Presidential Amnesty Committee on Rehabilitation and Reorientation, Mr. Selekaye Ben Victor said:
“The orientation has begun. These my brothers that you find here will be here for two weeks during which they would learn that in a society there are rules. And that is basically why they are here. They are here to be transformed. There are experts here to see to that. They are here to learn how to live in a civil society.”
Reminded that some of them were complaining about inadequate facility on ground, he gave indications that it was part of the training, saying, “you know, we are in Africa and many of us as we were growing up didn’t have some of these facilities that you find on ground here, but we learned to cope.
Having said that, I must say that you can see that a lot of facilities have been put in place to make the place comfortable for my brothers here. We have a caterer here, the facilities in this NYSC Camp ground, you can see have been improved on. The rehabilitation has commenced and they will leave here transformed.”
Leader of the ex-militants that were camped in Ondo State, Mr. Balogun Shola, said: “The condition in the camp is not fine. That’s not what the told us. We need re-orientation.
That’s why we are here. The condition here is not conducive. We don’t know the kind of training they are giving us here. Again, I want to inform you that the Federal Government did not send a bus to take us from Ondo. We had to hire a bus to be here.
We arrived here at about 2.00 a.m last night. You can imagine, the police harassment on the way and all that.”
Mr. Balogun Shola who accosted Ben Victor said: “I have just been told that you are the one keeping our salary and you’ve not paid us for two months. I will attack you here now and nothing will happen.”
Victor smiled and told him he was not the one paying them. He also explained that this was a Federal Government programme and that some civil servants had not been paid too.
He assured that at the end of the month they would be paid. Victor was, however, emphatic that the ex-militants were not being owed.
A top official in the orientation programme who insisted he should not be quoted said he was not surprised at the violent attitude of the ex-militants in camp, because “I have been working in this kind of environment all over the world. Yesterday, the campers became impatient and went to the dinning room to demand for food.
They were told that it has to be done in an orderly manner. One of them became angry and forcefully entered the room.’