By Chris Chimezie & Jubril Bada
Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), yesterday appealed to aggrieved youths who were genuinely concerned about the plight of the country to eschew violence and embrace peace by surrendering their arms within 21 days.
Akeredolu made the appeal in Akure during the extension of amnesty programme for armed youths in riverine areas, Ilaje and Ese-Odo Local Government Areas of Ondo State.
He said real development was impossible in a chaotic environment and encouraged those with weapons to come forward.
The Governor promised that nobody would be punished for embracing peace, while the 21-day exercise would be all-inclusive with no discrimination against any camp, group or individual.
“We are indeed grateful for the extension of the Amnesty Programme for the specific purpose of accommodating armed youths, who may be willing to surrender their weapons to the government.
“The understanding shown by the current administration underscores the seriousness attached to the issues of development in the region, it also speaks eloquently on the sincerity of current leaders on their avowed commitment to lasting peace and development.
“There will be a programme of rehabilitation to embrace all those who appreciate the wisdom in opting for peace.
“We are willing to assist them to integrate with the rest of the society,” he said.
Earlier, Special Adviser (S.A) to the President on Niger Delta, Mr Paul Boro, had said it was the constitutional responsibility of the state government to ensure safety of the citizens.
Represented by Rtd Major Abdul Matti, he explained that the granting of pardon to armed or militant youths and other criminal elements was also the responsibility of the government for sustainable development in the state.
“The action of granting pardon to militant youths in Ondo State by the Governor unveils to the public that development is a priority to this government.
“It will also bring a lot of confidence to potential investors and create a conducive environment for economic and infrastructural development.
He further expressed hope that the programme would bring an end to militancy.
Similarly, Mr Kingsley Otuaru, Acting Governor, Delta State, said insecurity in Ondo State was insecurity to all states in the Niger Delta region.
He called for continued collaboration and partnership to deal decisively with the issue of insecurity, and advised youths to use the opportunity to turn a new leaf.
Also, Chairman of the Amnesty Committee in the state, Mr Agboola Ajayi, appealed to the militants to accept the amnesty offer in good faith.
According to the Deputy Governor, this means that our riverine communities will experience economic boom and commercial posterity.
“This is more so that in a matter of months, oil drilling activities are likely to commence in the Mahin and Ese-Odo areas of the riverine part of the state.
“This will not just improve the revenue base of the state but will equally enhance her economic activities to the advantage of all youths who will find meaningful things to engage in.
“No seriousness can be more than what our amiable governor has displayed in this direction,” he said.
Agboola further appealed for suggestions and advice to ease the work of the committee regarding the process of amnesty since the committee did not know it all.
“We will equally approach relevant stakeholders and development partners for capacity building for the armed youths whose disarmament will commence from today,” he said.
On his own, Commandant, 323 Artillery Brigade, Akure, Brig. Gen. James Ataguba, appealed to the youth to take advantage of the Amnesty programme to lay down their arms and better their lives.
He enjoined traditional rulers in the riverine area of the state to admonish youths in their domain to submit their weapons and embrace government’s numerous life-changing programmes for them.
“We are hoping that by the end of this programme, we will have no cause for anyone of you to become militant again”, he said.
An ex-militant, Ariyo Ogbaru, while speaking with Journalists, commended Governor Akeredolu’s gesture geared towards giving militants a better means of livelihood.
Ogbaru, who said he benefitted from the Federal Government’s recent Amnesty programme, noted that he was taken alongside others to Singapore, where he learnt welding, adding that he has become a master of the job.
“I encourage my people to embrace Akeredolu’s Amnesty programme and assured them of a better life thereafter”, he said.
Dignitaries, who graced the event included; Secretary to Ondo State Government (SSG), Hon. Ifedayo Abegunde, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Olugbenga Ale, Head of Service, Barr Toyin Akinkuotu, Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Yemi Olowolabi and his Environment counterpart, Mr Funso Esan.
Others in attendance were Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Mr Donald Ojogo, Chairman of OSOPADEC, Hon Gbenga Edema, Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Frederick Akinruntan, Kalasuwe of Apoiland, Princess Sola Ebiseni.