Suspected militants, Wednesday, September 14, 2016, turned out in large numbers to lay down their weapons at Government House, Owerri in line with Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha’s Amnesty programme for the State.
The militants were operating in oil rich areas of Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Areas where violent killings, bombing of oil facilities and kidnappings of expatriates have been prevalent.
Okorocha met with the leadership of the militant groups at Government House, Owerri. Thereafter, most of the militants denounced militancy and submitted their arms and ammunitions.
This newspaper gathered that the militants mainly members of the Niger Delta Red Squad, Niger Delta Freedom Fighters, had engaged in series of meetings with the Imo State Government before they submitted their arms.
Addressing the repentant militants, Okorocha appealed to them not to return to militancy.
Okorocha said “You are pardoned for all the bad things you did, as the father of the state and your governor, I pardon you, please surrender totally, as long as you keep to your promise
“The Army and police will not go after you whenever you see them in your area is for friendly visit to eat and drink with you as good citizens of the country” he said
He appealed to them to shun violence and be responsible and responsive citizens of the State, stating that his resolve to offer them state pardon was because of his strong conviction that agitation, violence, wanton destruction of lives and property are not the best thing for them. He admonished them to shun violence.
Okorocha said that the Federal Government was aware of the programme and everything possible would be done to give them a sense of belonging.
Earlier in his remarks, Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Imo State Government Engr. Kingsley Uju said from available information provided by the militants, negligence by oil companies operating in the communities, abandonment by the Federal Government, environmental pollution and other provocative factors are cumulative factors responsible for the militant activities in the areas.
The militants dropped their weapons under the watchful eyes of the governor, Imo State Commissioner of Police and the Army Commander 34 field Artillery Brigade Obinze.
Some of them who spoke to reporters include General Banga who admitted that they were responsible for militant activities in the area.
He said` We have been vandalizing pipeline and other oil facilities in the oil region of Oguta Ohaji and Egbema our people have been neglected and abandoned to suffer in the midst of plenty, nothing has been done to carry us along.`
Commander Emekam Obioma expressed their readiness to embrace peace and urged that they be fully reintegrated into the society. He expressed regret that as an oil producing region they have suffered a lot in the midst of plenty.
Some of the militants who spoke on condition of anonymity narrated their experiences as militants saying they slept in the bush for over two years where they carried out their activities. They however promised to shun such old ways and embrace the amnesty program championed by the state governor.
They suggested that the Federal Government should give them pipe line surveillance jobs so as to drastically reduce pipeline vandalism and bunkering, lamenting over the absence of NDDC projects in their communities and called for the release of their detained members in various police formations.