Repentant Niger Delta militants protest in Benin, threatening to retreat into the creeks and wreak havoc on the nation’s economy if their outstanding allowances are not paid
Call it blackmail or whatever. Over 6,000 angry former Niger Delta militants from the various Niger Delta states under the Phase II of the federal government’s Amnesty Programme say they are ready to go back to the creeks if their outstanding allowances are not paid immediately. Some of the affected youths numbering about 60, who took to the streets in Benin last Monday under the aegis of Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria, FEHN, to protest the non-payment of their allowances since April 2011, warned that they would be forced to resume attacks on oil installations if the office of the special adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs continued to deny them their entitlements. The placard-carrying youths accused Kingsley Kuku of turning the Amnesty Programme into business and of introducing fraudsters in the office.
The youths who chanted anti-Kuku slogans and brandished placards with the inscriptions, “Kingsley Kuku must go: we need our money,” “Six months now, no payment; we want our money,” “We say no to corruption and fraudsters in amnesty office; they must go,” and “Federal Government: we don’t want Kingsley Kuku,” said they needed explanation on what happened to their allowances between March and December 2011 as well as from April 2012 till date. One of the leaders of the 6,166 affected ex-militants, Emomoemi Azebri, told the magazine that while at the Obubra camp in Cross River State, they were registered and given temporary identity cards. “They opened account for us in UBA and Fidelity Bank, that every month they will pay us our money through our account, (which is) N65,000. But since the day they opened the account for us, we did not see any money but we heard that they are paying the money to the ‘generals’, to the leaders.”
The visibly agitated ex-militant recalled that when in February 2012 they protested to Abuja, “They paid us January, February and March through our accounts. Since that time, we have not received any money till date. We need our money this month or we go to our creek.” Another leader of the protesters, Julius Bank, said they have also been denied other benefits “including training.” The protesters claimed that the Phase I amnesty “delegates” were given N150,000 each as furniture allowance “while the amnesty office sat on our furniture allowance.” He said in the past 19 months when the payment started, “some have not seen one kobo in their accounts while the lucky ones got three months, two months or one, which is not fair.”
According to Bank, “We don’t have any problem with the federal government but with the amnesty office, with Kingsley Kuku. That man should be called to order and our money should be released otherwise we are going to the creeks to blow the whole pipelines and the federal government will lose something.”
In an unsigned statement titled, “Phase 2 Ex-Militants say No to Fraudsters in Amnesty Office,” the irate former militants recalled that “When Timi Alaibe was in the same office, the amnesty programme was moving smoothly and there was no complaint,” but regretted that “immediately Kingsley Kuku came into the office, everything now turned upside down.”