Edwin Clark has condemned the comparison between Niger Delta agitators and bandits in Northern Nigeria.
In a Thursday press statement, the Convener of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), called out Islamic cleric Ahmad Gumi and a former Zamfara State governor, Ahmad Yerima, for repeatedly demanding that the Federal Government should grant amnesty to bandits just as the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua did to the Niger Delta agitators.
According to him, the Niger Delta agitators had legitimate demands contrary to the bandits whom he described as “murderous, bloodthirsty villains”.
“Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, Alhaji Ahmed Yerima and their cohorts, who seem to be ignorant and envious of the Amnesty granted by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, in August 2009, and which was opened for embracing until 4th October 2009, by the then Niger Delta agitators, are advised to go back to history.
“The case of the Niger Delta agitators is quite different from the case of these murderous, blood-thirsty villains, who have taken up arms against the state, using different names, whether as Boko Haram, bandits, killer herdsmen, kidnappers, etc.
“What is it they are demanding? Initially, we were told that as Boko Haram, they were against Western education; they started killing, maiming, and destroying properties. Then they changed and we were told that some of them have changed to answer bandits, and all sorts of names,” Clark said.
He added, “I reiterate again, that the attempt to equate the Niger Delta Amnesty with the northern bandits is not only criminal, but obnoxious and unconscionable.
“The whole idea of comparing the Niger Delta militants who are exposed to all kinds of diseases, illnesses and deprivations, as a result of oil exploration, with people whom we are told are not Nigerians, who enter into the country illegally, thus violating the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol, is very inhuman.”
The elder statesman also disagreed with a statement he said was credited to the Chief of Army Staff, Major Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, where he suggested that the amnesty programme has failed in Zamfara and other states, insisting rather that the programme has succeeded in Niger Delta.
“The statement of the Chief of Army Staff comes across to me as a proposal for the scrapping of the amnesty granted to legitimate agitators for a better life and environment by the Niger Delta youths. If my understanding is correct, I seriously disagree with the Chief of Army Staff.
“I will rather advise him to consult through the past records of his former colleagues since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999, viz Lt. Gen. Victor Malu, Lt. Gen. Alexander Ogomudia, Lt. Gen. Martin Agwai, Lt. Gen. Owoye Azazi, Lt. Gen. Luka Yusuf, Lt. Gen. Bello Dambazau, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, and his predecessor in office, Maj. Gen. Farouk Yahaya, the state of insecurity in the Niger Delta before the granting of the Amnesty, and what it is now.
“I am confident that the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme has succeeded in bringing peace to Niger Delta particularly the vandalisation of oil pipelines and oil platforms. He should note that “Operation Crocodile Smile” could not stop the insecurity in the Niger Delta,” Clark stated.
Clark advised President Bola Tinubu to pay special attention to the survival of the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta which still has some phases.
He said that the word “interim” should be removed from the “administrator” because the impression being given by the Niger Delta people is that the interim is there because the Federal government want to scrap the programme.
He also appealed to the youths of the region to remain patient and not to do anything to affect the smooth operation of the oil companies “while we continue to fight for our right legitimately”.