Leader of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, explained, on Friday that he summoned a meeting of the militant group in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, because of the overpowering pressure mounted on him and other MEND leaders by ex-agitators and other beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme. The meeting earlier scheduled to hold on Saturday has been put off.
Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson called for the postponement of the parley, saying he would later meet with the ex-militants to discuss the burning issues affecting the ex-agitators.
Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, in a statement said: “Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson has called for the postponement of the proposed meeting of the leaders of ex-agitators in the Niger Delta, earlier scheduled for this Saturday, 25th of July, 2015 in Yenagoa by them. The governor will meet with them soon to discuss issues as they affect the ex-agitators and other issues of overall strategic interest of the region and the nation as a whole.”
The governor called for “the understanding and cooperation of all concerned.”
Informed sources, however, said that due to the tension generated by the meeting, some ex-agitators had already declared that they would not participate.
They, nonetheless, expressed their willingness to attend a meeting summoned by Governor Dickson soon to discuss issues as they affect the Ijaw nation, the region and the country.
I was under pressure to convene the meeting – Tompolo
Tompolo confirmed there was apprehension in Ijaw land over the continued delay by the Federal Government in paying monthly stipends to the Amnesty beneficiaries, adding that while some of them, (leaders) understood the reason for the noticeable delay apparently caused by the scrutiny of government agencies, including the Amnesty Office, majority of the beneficiaries did not see it in that light.
His words: “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.”
The ex-militant leader, who is the Ibe-Ebidouwei of Izon nation is, however, flabbergasted that a section of the media mischievously linked the meeting to the stoppage of his pipeline surveillance contract, even though payment had not been made for the services rendered in the renewed contract, or termination of appointments.
Describing it as highly provocative and despicable, he said he was considering calling off the meeting, if anything, to show that he had no bad intention and would want Niger Delta to remain peaceful under the President Muhammadu Buhari government.
In fact, leaders across the region had called Tompolo Friday, advising him to cancel the meeting, as the intention was likely to be misconstrued.
However, the group of MEND, which refused to disband after Tompolo and others disbanded the militant group in 2009, in a statement by Jomo Gbomo, distanced itself from the meeting.
Why I called meeting – Tompolo
Tompolo’s statement reads: “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 organizations 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 hesitation 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 2.5 million 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,” he said.
He continued: “Nonetheless, 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 me 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 said.
Tompolo blasts media
Tompolo said it was unfortunate that a section of the Nigerian nation and the media chose to toe the path of misinforming the public and right-thinking people about the purpose of the meeting.
He said they linked the meeting to “whatever decision the current government at the centre may have taken in relation to the stoppage of the pipeline surveillance contract, even though payment has not been made for the services rendered in the renewed contract, or termination of appointments. This is highly provocative and despicable.”
According to him, “The tension generated by the meeting is uncalled for, diversionary and mischievous as no evil is intended in whatever form.”
“We appreciate the pressures being mounted by leaders from the region, especially as some have expressed concern that the meeting could be misinterpreted to mean the resurgence of hostilities in the region,” he said, adding, “We say, it is not.”
He asserted: “However, we take into account the fact that having embraced peace and remained supportive of various governments at all levels, including the President Muhammadu Buhari government, we are surprised that a meeting of ex-agitators could prop anxiety. Hence, we shall ensure our genuine intentions are reflected in our attitude towards peace, security and development of the region. Calling off today’s meeting can also be an option if need be, in order to strengthen our belief in a peaceful Niger Delta.”
Ignore MEND, Itsekiri, Urhobo leaders urge Buhari
Meanwhile, two Itsekiri and Urhobo leaders in Delta State, Chief Ayirimi Emami and Olorogun Egbo Jaro, Friday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to rebuff the attempt by some members of the splintered MEND led by Tompolo to distract him from probing the Amnesty programme.
Chief Emami in a terse statement, said: “Some of us are against the meeting because it is uncalled for. For the last six years, when Tompolo enjoyed juicy contracts from the Federal Government through NIMASA, pipeline surveillance, maritime security and other forms of undue favours, why didn’t he convene such a meeting? I must use this opportunity to stress once more that Niger Delta does not belong to one ethnic nationality.”
“Members of the fractured MEND have been granted amnesty long ago by the Federal Government and whatever the agenda of that meeting should be disregarded by the Buhari administration, which has shown absolute focus. People like us are determined to give the Buhari administration total support.’’
National leader, Urhobo Nationality Council (UNC), Olorgoun Jaro Egbo, stated: “The Urhobo ethnic nationality of Niger Delta are seriously against the purported meeting of the MEND as it is self-serving, misconceived and likely to bring the peace we now enjoy into disarray.
“We must strongly warn the so-called commanders of MEND that their properties in Urhobo land will be in serious jeopardy if they go ahead with the meeting. We fully support the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The Urhobo will resist any attempt by MEND and their co-travellers if they resort to arms again,” he added.