DELTA State-born ex-militant leader, “General” Godday Smith Bounanewei, aka god of forest, who was not enlisted in the amnesty programme by the Presidential Amnesty Office, Abuja, because he did not accept amnesty within the 60-day period deadline given by the Federal Government in 2009, has resorted to begging on the streets for survival with his boys.
Bounanewei, who confirmed his plight to Sunday Vanguard, said,” It is sad to mention that I, General Bounanawei and my ex-soldiers are begging on the streets for survival after embracing peace in Niger Delta. I have made several appeals but the Amnesty Office ignored me because I have been disarmed and Federal Government felt I am now a toothless dog”.
He added, “As part of achieving enduring peace in Niger Delta, I voluntarily embraced peace by accepting the amnesty programme with my soldiers on 24 February, 2011 and submitted all my barracks’ (militant group) high caliber rifles, rocket propeller launchers (RPGs), GPMGs, ammunition, dynamites and other dangerous weapons to the Joint Task Force, JTF, at my home town, Gbekebor, in Burutu LGA of Delta State”.
He said one Colonel Alechenu led the JTF soldiers that collected the weapons from his group and that, before then, the Chairman of Presidential Amnesty Programme, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, and the National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Azazi, on behalf of the Federal Government, assured him, at a meeting in Abuja, “that my soldiers would be re-integrated into the amnesty rehabilitation programme and pay me a compensation adequate for the submitted weapons”.
Surprisingly, about two years now; the Federal Government, it appears, deceived me to surrender and collected my weapons without any form of compensation, rehabilitation and training for my ex- soldiers.
“Therefore, I am using this medium to appeal passionately to Mr. President to direct the Office of the Amnesty Programme to engage my soldiers who have decided to embrace peace into the programme immediately and pay all their entitlements as well as compensation for my weapons. The early intervention of Mr. President into this matter will continue to strengthen the existing peace in Delta State of Niger Delta.
“I have my records in Niger Delta and I urge government to allow the sleeping dog lie. That is, Federal Government should not do anything that is capable of truncating the peace in Niger Delta. For the record, the pains that took us to the creeks in Niger Delta remain unresolved. The Amnesty Programme is not a catalyst for peace as there is no single sign of development in Niger Delta in terms of tangible projects or infrastructure”.
Investigation by Sunday Vanguard, nevertheless, showed that despite the reservations of some persons on the accomplishment of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, initiated by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2009, the programme has , undoubtedly, made a remarkable impact in the lives of many of the 20, 358 ex-militants.
About 18 Presidential Amnesty Programme’s beneficiaries, who enlisted in pilot training schools in South Africa, were, recently, decorated with their private pilot licences at the prestigious Afrikan Union Aviation Academy in Mafikieng and the Flight Training School in Midrand. At both aviation institutions, guests, led by the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, witnessed the heart-warming exploits of the Nigerian youths who could conveniently fly and smoothly land aircraft.