By NBF News
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Amnesty still on course, says Niger Delta minister

By Elizabeth Archibong
March 17, 2010 03:14AM
Ufot Ekaette affirms government commitment to amnesty. Photo: SUNDAY ADEDEJI

Despite the bomb blasts that disrupted the proceedings on Monday at the post-amnesty summit in Warri, Delta State, the federal government is still committed to the programme.

The minister of Niger Delta, Ufot Ekaete said the summit was meant to fill the missing link and examine the progress of the scheme.

Amnesty still on course
He stated that nothing, not even the bomb blasts, will stop the actualization of the amnesty programme. Speaking after a meeting of the presidential coordinating committee on the Niger Delta with Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, at the presidential villa, Mr. Ekaete said, 'Well, nothing will stop us from doing what we are supposed to do. We will continue to work hard to actualize the programme of the amnesty and that is the best we can do under the present circumstances.'

The Niger Delta minister decried the fact that a meeting that was convened by one of their members to dialogue on sustainable development of the area, had to end the way it did. He emphasized that the amnesty programme has not failed but needs continuous dialogue for both parties to understand themselves.

'We felt very sad because the convener meant well. They wanted to put all of us together to sit down and talk, identify the problems and the challenges and come up with the way forward. That is why the Acting President sent me to represent him but that thing happened the way it did, and I could not even read his paper, and the whole thing was scattered and people were scattered, running helter-skelter. Why they had to do that is still a mystery to me till today.'

The way out
Mr. Ekaete observed that, 'The best way to find solution is for you to sit down to talk. I hear people say amnesty has failed. Amnesty has not failed. They don't know the steps government is taking to ensure that amnesty is on course and that forum could have provided that missing link between what the various committees set up by government are doing and the perception of the people that say amnesty has failed, which is wrong.'

On Monday at a post-amnesty dialogue organised by Vanguard Media Limited, the publishers of Vanguard newspapers, in Warri, Delta State, bomb explosions had rocked the venue leaving one person dead. The first bomb exploded at 11am, as Emmanuel Uduaghan, governor of Delta State, was walking into the hall with his counterparts from Imo and Edo States, Ikedi Ohakim and Adams Oshiomhole, with Ekaete who represented the acting president.

When asked if the government now believes that there is such a group as MEND, Mr. Ekaete said, 'I have no comment on that. I have no comment whatsoever.'