Ex-militant leaders visit bomb blast site

VANGUARD Newspaper

Abuja — FORMER commanders of the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, yesterday, said they would visit the site of last Friday's dastardly bombings in Abuja where they are expected to repudiate the action.

A statement signed by Mr. Henry Ugbolue, an aide to the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chief Executive Officer of the Amnesty Programme, Mr. Timi Alaibe, in Abuja, listed former militia leaders expected at today's event as including Chief Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo), Mr. Victor Ben (Boyloaf), Chief Ateke Tom, Fara Dagogo, John Togo, Gen. Shoot Asight, Pastor Reuben, Gen Eziekel, Gen. Joshua Miccaival, Bonney Gawei, Gen. Aboy, Gen. Ogunbos, and Gen. Africa.

This came just as the South Africa based leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Mr. Henry Okah, is expected to appear in Johannesburg Court, today, over his alleged involvement in the October 1 bomb blasts in Abuja that claimed about 12 lives and injured several others.

The statement which said the genuine militants had turned a new leaf by dropping their arms, following the Presidential Amnesty granted them a year ago, added:

"Having disarmed and embraced the offer of amnesty from the Federal Government a year ago, the leaders of the former militant groups in the Niger Delta have since registered their disgust at the Abuja bombings and are poised to use the opportunity of the commemoration of one year of amnesty proclamation to debunk the insinuation that agitators in the Niger Delta were involved.

"One year after the declaration of the amnesty, the programme has recorded resounding success. The return of peace and security in the once volatile Niger Delta was evident in the enabling environment created for greater business operations, as well as, safety of lives and property in the region.

Abayomi Adeshida/Vanguard

The scene of a bomb blast during the 50th Independence Anniversary around the Millenium Park, Abuja.
"To underscore the end of militancy in the Niger Delta and to commemorate one year of Amnesty Proclamation, all the leaders of former militia groups will, Monday, October 4, converge in Abuja to among other things publicly denounce the recent bombings in the nation's capital and visit the wounded victims of the bomb blasts who are currently recuperating in different hospitals in Abuja.

Henry Okah for trial

Meantime, South Africa based leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Mr. Henry Okah is to appear in Johannesburg Court, today, over his alleged involvement in the October 1 bomb blasts in Abuja that claimed about 16 lives and injured several others.

A news agency report which quoted his counsel stated that Okah, who was arrested on Saturday, in South Africa by the county's security operatives, may be arraigned in court.

MEND had claimed responsibility for the attack but explained that it was a symbolic one-off strike that was intended as a reminder that the injustice against the Niger Delta had not been addressed.

It said the attack should not be seen as the start of a campaign of violence.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan has assured that the nation's security operatives were closing-in on perpetrators of the bomb blasts and their sponsors in Nigeria and that the government would soon expose them.

The President who spoke at the State House annexe, Marina, Lagos, to commemorate the Jubilee celebrations, had observed a minute silence in honour of those who lost their lives in the attack.

He said the government had been on the trail of perpetrators of the dastardly act.
The President who also spoke during a special church service at the National Christian Centre in Abuja, said that those who died in the episode had not died in vain, while the incident had served as a turning point for a better Nigeria.

He said: "This is a period of change, particularly now that Nigeria is marking a new era in its history. Nigeria must change for the better. It is also a period that enemies of progress would work hard to undermine our efforts like they did on October 1 at the Eagle Square when we were celebrating our Independence. Lives were lost and property destroyed, but they would not stop us."

The President confirmed that 12 persons died during the explosion which occurred about a kilometre away from the celebration venue where 15 heads of State, among other personalities and other Nigerians, had gathered.

He noted: "Government will leave no stone unturned to unearth the remote and immediate causes of the bombing. All those who are directly or indirectly linked with the bombing will be brought to book and God will help security agencies to apprehend those behind it so that we all will know the demons in our midst."

While thanking Nigerians for their prayers and dedication, the President said: "Ordinarily, Nigerians would have left the Eagle Square, but they didn't. All the heads of State left and until I left, the place was still calm and I said: This is a new Nigeria."
Jonathan told the congregation, including service chiefs, governors, ministers, legislators and other faithful, that the socio_economic indicators which had not been anything to write home about, were being reversed.

Earlier, the President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, which put the event together, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, had said that Nigeria should henceforth, be a nation of doers.

Oritsejafor said: "For long, we have been talking without doing, but this time around, let us be a nation of doers, and not talkers."

Noting that this was the only way Nigeria would become a prosperous nation, the CAN President said: "We have remained backward because our leaders had never matched their words with action. So if we must get to the Promise Land, we must change from talkers to doers."

No time to forgive anyone—Mark

Senate President, David Mark, said the National Assembly was prepared to assist the Federal Government on prompt arrest of the perpetrators and ensuring maximum sanction against them.

He said: "Whatever may be the reason behind this, it is not acceptable. This is not time to forgive anybody behind this evil, we urge the Federal Government and we will assist them that the evil doers must get maximum sanction."

Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State who spoke on behalf of the 36 States Governors, said they were prepared to support the purposeful leadership of the President Jonathan.

While urging President Jonathan not to despair or get distracted by "blackmail", Akpabio said: "The problem of Nigeria today was not caused by the present leaders, therefore, be strong because we know that you are God sent to liberate the nation."

More condemnations also trailed the Abuja bomb explosions as the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke and Rivers State Council of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, warned that such act was a threat to free polls in 2011.

In a statement by Mr Patrick Ugbe, his Chief Press Secretary and Special Adviser Media, Governor Imoke described the action as an act of terrorism that must not be condoned.

While urging security agencies to carry out a thorough investigation, so that the perpetrators would be brought to book, Imoke said: "This is a shameful act of cowardice, and an unnecessary waste of human lives, especially happening on a day the country was marking 50 years of nationhood."

Rivers State TUC in a statement by its Chairman, Mr. Hyginus Onuegbu, called on government to overhaul the entire security machinery in the country as well as take decisive steps that would assure ordinary Nigerians that government could protect them in their fatherland.

The statement said: "Rivers State TUC, joins all other well meaning Nigerians in the total condemnation of the bomb blasts that killed innocent Nigerians during the celebration of Nigeria's 50th Independence anniversary at Abuja.

The TUC believes that the bomb blast was totally unwarranted and the death of innocent Nigerians who are not howsoever responsible for the unacceptable and pitiable condition of Nigeria after 50 years of independence totally unjustifiable.

Former Military President and a presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, yesterday, said the response of President Goodluck Jonathan to the Friday bomb blasts in Abuja exposed the lack of co-ordination of the Jonathan-led Federal Government.

Bomb blast exposes breakdown in security —IBB

Babangida said the position of the Federal Government on the car bombing on the nation's Golden Jubilee celebration, exposed a breakdown in the security of the country.

In a statement signed by the Director, Media and Publicity, IBB 2011 Campaign Organization, Prince Kassim Afegbua, the presidential hopeful said the government ought not to have jumped into a conclusion by exonerating the group that has claimed responsibility on an issue as serious as bombing.

The statement said: "The position of the Federal Government on the very painful and morally reprehensible act of car bombing on golden jubilee celebration, did not only expose a breakdown in the security of the nation, but also exposes the lack of co-ordination of the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government.

"On an issue as serious as bombing, the government must not jump into conclusion by exonerating the group that has claimed responsibility. It must take a decisive step to arrest this ugly trend in our society by commencing full investigation into the incident.

Jonathan faults IBB's claims

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Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation faulted IBB Campaign Oganisation's claims over the blast saying it was cheap to use the blood of the blast victims to advertise IBB credentials.

A statement signed by the Director of Publicity, Sully Abu, said: "The President is the chief security officer of the nation and has more information on this matter than any Nigerian.

Therefore, his statements are always carefully calibrated to protect the security of every Nigerian.

"The President has not exonerated anyone or group. Whoever was behind the bomb blast will be fished out no matter who or where they are. Trying to make political mileage from this sad event can only be the provenance of people whose staple is the violation of the lives and property of Nigerians. "


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