Militants Open Up On Bayelsa Killings: Why we killed Colonel, others

2012-03-04
VANGUARD Newspaper- Emma Amaize


An ex-militant who identified himself as the leader of the group which, on Thursday, shot dead a lieutenant colonel and two naval ratings attached to the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger Delta, at the weekend, opened up on why they struck.

According to him, they killed the military officials because of Federal Government’s refusal to incorporate ex-militants who had been left out of the amnesty programme.

The ex-militant leader simply gave his name as Victor.

He spoke exclusively to Sunday Vanguard yesterday, just as Niger Delta activists and Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, raised the alarm over the death in prison of one of the suspects arrested in connection with the 2010 independence day bombings in Abuja.

But the special adviser to the president on Niger Delta and Chairman of the post-amnesty programme, Hon Kingsley Kuku, in a response, said only President Goodluck Jonathan had the power to include those left out of the scheme after October 4, 2009.

“Pursuant to the 2009 Amnesty Proclamation, the Amnesty Office is saddled with task of disarming, demobilising and reintegrating 26, 358 Niger-Delta ex-agitators who accepted the offer of amnesty on or before October 4th, 2009”, Kuku told Sunday Vanguard on phone yesterday.

“To the best of our ability, we have been vigorously pursuing this mandate. We have exited the disarmament component of the programme having collected, documented and publicly destroyed all arms and ammunition submitted by the ex-combatants”, he said, adding as far he knew, the members of the so-called third phase amnesty that were not registered for the on-going programme.

He explained that if the president ordered that new names be added to the programme, his office would have no option than to accept them, saying, however, that as long as that was not done, there was nothing he could do as an individual to include the aggrieved ex-militants in the programme.


militants
JTF spokesman, Lt. Col. Timothy Antigha, confirmed, on Friday, that four of its personnel, a lieutenant colonel, said to be the commander of its Brass unit, and three others were missing-in-action, MIA, in Bayelsa creek. He had stated on Thursday, few hours after the incident, that the situation was still hazy.

According to the militant leader, who maintained that they were pushed to the wall, “We, ex-militants, under the third phase of the amnesty programme have vowed to continue attacks and killings in the Niger-Delta until the government includes us in the programme. This is our promise, since they do not want to listen to us”.

‘Gunmen not part of post-amnesty’

Kuku asserted, “If the activities, as you have stated, are carried out by those you said are under the third phase amnesty, please, the Amnesty Office has no business with them because they are not part of the programme”.
“I have deemed it important to give you this status update to emphasise the fact that the Amnesty Office under my humble self has been efficiently discharging its mandates to the 26,358 Niger Delta ex-agitators enrolled in the Amnesty Programme”, the presidential adviser stressed.

“Beyond the 26,358 ex-agitators who stepped out to accept the offer of amnesty as at when due and got enrolled in the Amnesty Prgramme, the Amnesty Office owes no obligations to other persons. The Amnesty Office is not admitting and has not been directed by His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonthan, GCFR, to admit new entrants into the Amnesty Programme”.

According to him, “Our programme is for registered agitators who accepted amnesty within the period of the amnesty proclamation and because of our successful implementation of the programme, which is why many people, who call themselves agitators want to be part of it”.

“In all the empowerment and training programmes in the Niger-Delta, the amnesty programme is the one that has made the boldest impact and touched the lives of the people, that is why they are doing everything to be part of it, including resorting to violence and all that”, he asserted.

Kuku said the mandate the Amnesty Office did not include third phase ex-militants and since it was the business of the JTF, police, navy, governors of the respective states as chief security officers to maintain peace, they should put in place measures that will guarantee peace in Niger-Delta.

He said if the Federal Government throws the amnesty programme open for everybody and makes funds available for the exercise, the Amnesty Office would carry out the order to the letter, but for now, nobody should paint his office in bad light for doing no evil.

According to him, the position of government on the post-amnesty programme, whether inclusion of more persons or otherwise, should be defended by the appropriate security agencies in a manner that would not cause breach of peace in the region.

‘How we overpowered soldiers’
Contrary to reports that they were pirates, the ex-militant leader said, “We are not pirates. We are ex-militants who the Federal Government refused to accommodate in the amnesty programme after the Minister of Niger-Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe, Special Adviser to the President on Niger-Delta and Chairman of the Post-Amnesty Programme, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, and others appealed to us to drop our arms and ammunition”.

He also said it was not true that his group opened fire on the military men, saying, “They were the ones that first opened fire at us and we retaliated”.

The ex-militant leader said it was easy to subdue the soldiers because he and his boys were under the protection of the Ijaw god of war.

According to him, unconfirmed reports stated that some of ‘our men have been killed but we are yet to get details of the incident’.

He, however, debunked reports that it was his group that also killed four policemen at a checkpoint, same day, in Bayelsa State, saying, “There are many other groups moving about, I cannot say which of them now”.

Ex-militants sleep under bridges
He said that some of the ex-militants were presently sleeping under bridges, empty motor vehicles and uncompleted buildings as a result of the government’s unfulfilled promise to rehabilitate them, adding, “This is the crux of the matter.

Throwing more light on the encounter between the military personnel and his group as well as their catalogue of woes, he said, “The truth is that their gunboat was moving towards our direction and they opened fire first at us, but the bullet did not enter us and we fired at them because they started the battle,”Victor stated

“And one thing I want the government to know is that the soldiers are no match for us, they should not send them on a suicide mission against us, the best thing is to include us in the post-amnesty programme.

“We were all involved in the Niger-Delta struggle. I started from the Warri crisis, the Kaiama Declaration and the last one. Initially, we did not believe in the amnesty programme and feared to come out to participate, but we were told to drop our arms and be part of it”.

“Hon Kuku, Orubebe came round to say we should drop arms. After we listened to them, we have waited for years, nothing is happening, our people sleep under bridges, empty motor vehicles and uncompleted schools”.

The ex-militant leader said the aggrieved ex-militants resolved to send a delegation to Abuja to air their views but was stopped at Lokoja.

“We were called all kinds of names, that we are not ex-militants, that we are hoodlums and all that. But that is not the truth, they came to beg us drop arms and they are calling us names because we listened to them.

“It is not our intention to fight again but because we have been pushed to the wall, we are suffering, we are not benefitting from the amnesty programme they promised us.

“Now, we want to tell them that we are not what they call us, we want to fight them, since we gave them peace and they turned it down, we will give them what they want. They think that patrolling the waterways with army and navy people will scare us. They are too small for us, and we will finish them.

“What we did on Friday is just testing, we will fight them to the finish, they will get graveyard peace, it can never be stable”.
According to him, “There will never be peace until they approve post-amnesty programme for the third phase ex-militants”.

“There are so many groups that have not been included. I have my own group, over 200 young men have been trained in guerilla warfare and we will neither retreat nor surrender”.

Our pact with MEND
On the relationship between the group and Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, the chief militant group in the region, he said, “We are part of MEND, but our concern is the third phase amnesty matter. We fight the battle and MEND takes responsibility”.

JTF search for dead officers
Meanwhile, the JTF has deployed men in the waterways and creeks of Nembe and Brass to track down the killers of their men.

“The military cannot declare a person dead unless the corpse is seen. That is why the soldiers were said to be missing in action. It is only when their corpses have been seen that you can say they are dead. And they have families. You cannot announce a person dead without evidence”, a military source added.

He said the JTF was searching for the corpses and the slain men’s arms.

We didn’t touch their arms – ex militants
On the men’s arms, the ex-militant leader said, “We did not touch their weapons. I have nothing to do with their guns. Our problem is non-inclusion in amnesty programme, nothing more, nothing less.
“We left them when we saw that they were dead”, he added.

There was fresh panic in Bayelsa, on Thursday, when four policemen and three military personnel were killed by unidentified gunmen along the waterways of Nembe and Brass local government council areas of the state.
While the policemen were reportedly killed at the Marine police checkpoint in the Nembe Creek at about 7a.m., the attack on the lieutenant colonel and the two naval ratings occurred at the Okpoama River junction at about 10a.m. on their way to Ogbia waterside.

The policemen and military men were said to have been ambushed by gunmen, who reportedly approached the marine police checkpoint and the two speedboats conveying the military personnel in two speed boats and opened fire on them.

Police authorities in the state confirmed that four of their men were killed by unidentified gunmen around the Nembe creek.

The state Commissioner of Police, Chris Olakpe, who was thrown into mourning, could not speak with newsmen on the incident, but the death was confirmed by spokesman, ASP, Emokpae Eguavoen.
He said the remains of four marine policemen were recovered.

The state government said in a statement that “only one military officer and two naval ratings were attacked with other passengers in a boat at Okpoama junction of the Brass-Ogbia route of the river”, but latest report indicated that four JTF personnel were missing.

The killing of police and military personnel came on the heels of the multiple dynamite attacks, audaciosly launched by some youths on some spots along the Opolo and Biogbolo areas of the state on the same stretch of road with the headquarters of the JTF.

But the state government dismissed the alleged dynamite attacks, in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, saying that the reported dynamite explosions was not correct.

Furore over death of Abuja bombings suspect

In the meantime, Niger Delta activists and Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, raised the alarm, weekend, over the death in Kuje Prisons, Abuja of one of the suspects, arrested in connection with the October I, 2010 bombings in Abuja during the independence day celebrations, Tiemkenfa Osvwo, alias “Gen” Gbokos, who was a militant leader.

The activists, Ankio Briggs and spokesman of the defunct Niger-Delta Liberation Force, NDLF, “Captain” Mark Anthony said “Gen” Gbokos died as a result of poisonous chemicals he inhaled when prisons officials fumigated the prisons and refused to open their locked cells.

They said that some other inmates were in critical condition as a result of the fumigation.

Keyamo, who is a lawyer to the deceased, said, in a statement, “On Saturday March 3, 2012, one of the suspects in the case (October 1, 2010 bombing) by the name, Tiemkenfa Francis Osvwo, alias General Gbokos, died in the Kuje Prison.

“His death came on the heels of series of complaints by counsel representing him and his co-accused about the maltreatment meted out on the accused persons by the Nigerian Government in custody.

“The sickness leading to the death of General Gbokos started when their cell was fumigated with a strange substance on the 8th of January, 2012, which affected the health of all the four suspects. Suffice it to reiterate that we, their solicitors raised alarm about that development at the time.

“Prior to his death in custody, ‘Gbokos’ had been urinating and defecating on himself in the prison and despite pleas by his solicitors requesting that he be treated properly, no one attended to him.

“On the 21st of February, 2012, he collapsed in court which stalled hearing for that day but despite the order of the court on the day in question that he be medically attended to by the Prisons authorities, no medication were administered on him. It was obvious therefore that the authorities wanted him dead.

“May we for the umpteenth time resound our alarm that other accused persons in the October 1, 2010 bombing still in Kuje Prisons are facing similar conditions that claimed the life of Osvwo”.

He went on: “At this juncture, we are constrained to state that we find it extremely inequitable that virtually all the suspects linked to the Boko Haram bombings have been enjoying bail while our clients, the alleged masterminds of the October 1, 2010 bombings, (still presumed innocent) continue to suffer indignities in custody”.

“We, therefore, respectfully, call on all well-meaning Nigerians to join in the call for their bail and the Nigerian Government to facilitate the release of the other suspects in custody with a view to attending to their deteriorating health before they die in custody”, he asserted.

 

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