Ex-militant leader in the Niger Delta, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, has given reasons why he called a meeting of top ex-militant commanders, under the aegis of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta to a meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Saturday.
Tompolo said in a statement on Friday that he called the Saturday’s meeting in response to the anxiety generated by the delay in the payment of stipends to beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme.
President Muhammadu Buhari had suspended payment of salaries, stipends and Amnesty allowances since May, a situation said to have resulted in the expulsion of several delegates of the programme in foreign countries.
Tompolo explained that the meeting became necessary because majority of the beneficiaries of the programme did not have the expected understanding of the reasons for the delay in the payment of the salaries and allowances of the Amnesty Programme.
He said he and other ex-militant leaders were under intense pressure to provide explanation to most of the beneficiaries, who have the suspicion that the seeming suspension of the allowances could be a ploy to stop the programme.
He added that the recent expulsion of some trainees and students by various institutions outside the country aggravated such fears among those enlisted in the programme.
Tompolo said, “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 organisations summoned at my instance.
“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 myself 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.”