12 September, 2011, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa- The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta codenamed Operation Restore Hope has issued a 7 day ultimatum to all groups in the region in possession of illegal arms to turn in all such arms or face the full wrath of the law.
The special security outfit which yesterday dismissed claims that it was responsible for the agitation by some self styled ex militants in the region for Third Phase amnesty programme warned that with effect from September 18, 2011 anyone found with illegal arms will have himself to blame.
Describing the allegation that it was encouraging agitation for Third Phase amnesty as unfortunate, the JTF said its only interaction with the supposed ex militants had to do with the collection of illegal arms and ammunition from their possession.
The JTF reaction is coming on the heels of the seven day ultimatum issued to the federal government by some self acclaimed Third Phase ex militants which snowballed into last week protest on the East West which caused serious gridlock and untold hardship to commuters and motorists.
In a statement issued in Yenagoa, the the JTF Spokesman, Lt Col Timothy Antigha said the granting of amnesty was the prerogative of Mr. President and as such the the task force does not have a say in the matter other than to mop up all illegal arms in the Niger Delta.
The statement reads, “the attention of the Joint Task Force (JTF) OPERATION RESTORE HOPE has been drawn to insinuations in certain quarters that the JTF is responsible for the agitation for Third Phase Amnesty programme by some self acclaimed ex-militants in the Niger Delta Region. In the light of this very sad and unfortunate development, the JTF wishes to state that it has never encouraged anyone or group of persons to agitate for an extended Amnesty programme.
“The JTF wishes to state further that the only interaction it has with the so-called ex-militants, is with regards to the collection of illegal arms and ammunition from their possession. They willingly approach the JTF to submit these arms and ammunition. The collection was usually done without any promise of Amnesty, reward or obligation from the JTF.
“So far, the JTF has mopped several thousands of arms and ammunition, which would otherwise have been used to perpetrate crime in the region and the nation in general. The JTF believes that the Niger Delta Region is more secured with these arms recovered from unauthorized persons.
“It is therefore with utmost shock and disappointment that the JTF views the recent willful and mischievous misinterpretation of it’s patriotic duty to mean incitement of ex-militants to agitate for Third Phase Amnesty. This is more so, when this insinuation is coming from an individual who is highly placed and connected with the entire process of the Amnesty Programme. The grant of amnesty is a Presidential prerogative. The JTF is not oblivious of this fact. Therefore, it could not have proceeded to promise disarming ex-militants Amnesty as is being insinuated.
Consequent upon this uncharitable and tarnishing remark which is capable of dampening morale of personnel, the JTF has resolved to take the current drive in recovery of arms to a greater level. To this end, the JTF is issuing a 7 days period of grace with effect from date of this release to everyone bearing arms illegally in the Niger Delta Region to come forward and submit same. With effect from 18 September, 2011, anyone found with illegal arms will be arrested and treated as a criminal.”
Meanwhile, the ex militants in the region who last week protested to be included in the federal government amnesty programme as Third Phase ex militants have expressed regret over the lost of life during last week protest on the East West road.
Kathy Sese and Tonye Bobo on behalf of the group in a statement in Yenagoa said as human who are not infallible their protest got out hand as a result of its being infiltrated by persons who were bent on causing trouble.
“We are using this medium to appeal to the good people of this nation and particularly the people of Rivers and Bayelsa states as it concerns the protest which regrettably got out of hand because of infiltration,” they pleaded and promised to resort to hung strike next time to press home their demand to be included in the amnesty programme.