Soldiers abort ex-militants’ bid to block East-West road
Troops of the joint military task force, code-named ‘Operation Delta Safe’ yesterday dispersed ex-militants under the Presidential Amnesty Programme, who had blocked the East-West road in protest against unpaid three months allowances.
The ex-militants under Phases One to Three of the amnesty programme had blocked the East-West expressway as early as 6: 00 a.m. vowing not to vacate the road until their three months allowances were paid.
Early morning travelers and motorists on the Mbiama axis of East-West road were stranded for close to two hours while their protest lasted. Respite however, came when armed troops arrived in two patrol vans to remove the blockade and open the road at about 7: 30 a.m.
The soldiers fired several warning shots into the air, forcing the agitators to scamper away.Elliot Seimiebo, an ex-militant, who is on Phase One of the scheme, expressed displeasure that the soldiers used firearms to disperse “a peaceful protest aimed at drawing attention of the world to their neglect.”
“We were not armed, but the soldiers turned their weapons on us and there was confusion as people ran for their lives. One of the protesters was hit by a stray bullet and got injured on his leg,” Seimiebo alleged.
Another ex-militant, who identified himself as Bobra Angese, said many of them had gathered at the venue for a peaceful procession against their unpaid three months allowances. “The soldiers shocked many with their ambush. They descended on us and assaulted many,” he said.
Angese claimed: “When I saw the rowdy scene, I retreated. It is not fair that we cannot express ourselves under a democracy. This is the second time the Nigerian Army will be doing this to the beneficiaries of the amnesty initiative.”
The ex-militants called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and ensure that what they are owed are paid.When The Guardian contacted the spokesman of Operation Delta Safe, Lt.-Cdr. Thomas Otuji, he said that the claim that protesters were shot was untrue.
“Our troops were sent to the scene to ensure the free flow of traffic. They went there to clear the blockade on the East-West road. There is no such report at my disposal of any brutality as we speak. The protesters were professionally dispersed,” Otuji said on phone.
Piriye Kirayamo, Liaison Officer at the Amnesty Office in Yenagoa said that efforts were underway to clear the backlog of militants’ stipends.“We have been in discussions with the ex-agitators and have been appealing to them to remain calm. The office is doing everything to ensure that their stipends are paid,” Kiyaramo said.