27 February 2013

Nigeria: 10 Vehicles Destroyed As Ex-Militants, JTF Clash in Bayelsa

Photo: Premium Times
Unknown gunmen

Hundreds of ex-militants Tuesday took to the streets of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, engaging men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Pulo Shield in a gun battle that lasted over an hour.

However, the development led to a pandemonium as residents scampered to safety, forcing most businesses to close shop.

The ex-militants, who were said to be protesting their camp allowances and the proposed slots for the newly admitted third phase amnesty militants, destroyed about 10 vehicles and set ablaze a car along the busy Mbiama/Yenagoa road.

It was also gathered that the ex-militants allegedly looted shops along Otiotio road and Mbiama-Yenagoa road at Yenezue-gene axis of the state capital, just as an unidentified man hand was allegedly macheted by the ex-militants.

THISDAY gathered that the mayhem started following a disagreement between representatives of the office of the coordinator of the inter task force saddled with the responsibility of accounting for and collecting all the arms submitted by ex-militants as part of the amnesty programme.

The Inter-Agency Taskforce headed by Air Vice Marshal Gbum, which was currently on a verification exercise of ex-militants in the state, reportedly notified them that for every 15 guns submitted by a militant camp, it would be entitled to one amnesty slot training.

The ex-militants rejected the decision describing it as meagre and inhuman.

The militants, THISDAY checks revealed wanted the agency to allocate a slot for each militant for every two guns submitted.

But the agency said since their submission was coming several years after the amnesty opportunity was over, it will only accept one militant for every 15 guns surrendered.

This enraged the militants who took to the streets in protest, and before long a gun battle ensued.

When contacted, the spokesman of JTF, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, confirmed the protest and said it had been put under control.

He added that the security outfit had no hand in the protest.

At the scene of the incident, broken bottles and smithereens of vehicles windscreen littered the roads around the area.

In its reaction to the action of the boys, spokesman of the Presidential Amnesty Office, Daniel Alabrah, condemned the violent protest by the ex-militants, noting that the destruction of the vehicles was misplaced.

Alabrah clarified that the Amnesty Office had no hand in the allocation of slots to the ex-militants, stressing that the Inter- Security Agency would only recommend number of slots to them after its verification exercise.

Efforts to reach head of the Inter- Agency Security Taskforce were not successful as his mobile phone was switched off as at press time.

Speaking on why they took the action, one of the ex-militants, Tonye Bobo, said they rejected the proposed 15 guns to each slot, arguing that all ex-militant that surrendered arms to embrace amnesty should be given a slot in the amnesty programme.

"The Federal Government should abide by the agreement reached between late President Umaru Yar'Adua and the ex-militant leaders. The proposed 15 guns to one slot is unacceptable to us," he said.

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