By Aherhoke Okiona
Key stakeholders from the Niger Delta region have unanimously condemned the false claims of the alleged involvement of the frontline Former Militant Leader, Chief Ebikabowei Victor-Ben also known as General Boyloaf in the alleged financial wrongdoings levelled against the Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) by the online tabloid, Premium Times.
The key stakeholders, made up of some Elders of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), members of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Traditional Rulers, Youth and Women groups across the Niger Delta region, described the online tabloid, Premium Times report as a selective witch-hunt, a sponsored personal attack, and a deliberate plan to cause disaffection and security breach in the region.
In their misleading report, the Premium Times had last Wednesday claimed that the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta was among Government MDAs that have violated the financial transparency laws by authorizing the payment of huge sums of public funds into private accounts.
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The report partly stated, “The Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta tops the list of MDAs making such controversial payments.” However, findings showed that Premium Times failed to state exactly how much was paid monthly to these leaders for onward payments to thousands of delegates in their camps.
Premium Times in its Sponsored report failed to account for the number of delegates in the various camps across the region, and they also failed to explain what other way or mechanism should the federal government utilize in paying thousands of ex-militants across the region if not through their private accounts.
The key stakeholders, in a joint Press Statement issued in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, and signed by Chief Bubaraye Daniels, stated that, “the allegedly sponsored Premium Times report is misguided, misleading, and a personal attack against Boyloaf by disgruntled and failed politicians who blame him for their election losses, or do they think that the security agencies are not fully aware of these payments?”
According to the statement, despite the fact that the report of the online tabloid is incorrect, Boyloaf is known to his followers and millions of people across the region as a credible, upright former warlord, a formidable “War-Machine” and disciplinarian, who in recent years have risen to the role of a Great Statesman, a Peace and Conflict Resolution Strategist and advocate.
The statement states that, “the Online Tabloid Premium Times has turned into a gossip and blackmailing medium, and has done great disservice to its reputation as their mischief became obvious by their decision to single out Chief Victor-Ben without listing other prominent former militant leaders that received larger amounts, and paid in like manner by the PAP office for onward payments to thousands of delegates and beneficiaries in their various camps across the six (6) states in the Niger Delta region.”
Chief Bubaraye Daniels also noted that, “the amount quoted by the online tabloid is not only small, but insulting, and belittling, given the thousands of lives lost, and the monumental contributions made by these Former Militant Leaders in achieving sustainable peace across the region that enabled the federal government and multinational oil and gas companies to explore, extract, and export crude oil and gas products from the Niger Delta region.”
“Let it be known that Boyloaf is not a civil servant nor a career politician. He is a Statesman of high repute and beloved by his people. Boyloaf was not only a co-founder, but he was extremely instrumental for the successful establishment of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and has continued to fulfil his obligations under the agreement reached with the Federal Government since 2009 to ensure sustained peace and stability in the region. Hardly can you find anyone across the region that understands the workings of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) better than Boyloaf.”
“He has not only maintained the peace accord reached with the federal government but has transformed himself and thousands of his followers in ways unimaginable, both educationally and politically, and contributes immensely to the political and socio-economic growth and development in the region and the country at large.”
“Since the inception of the PAP, never has anyone heard that delegates from Boyloaf’s camp were protesting against the non-payment of their monthly stipends.”
“These disgruntled and failed politicians making false and frivolous publications against Boyloaf should understand that no amount of blackmail or publications will sway Boyloaf from working to ensure peace in the region, despite occasional agitations caused by sabotage and over the unfulfilled infrastructural development promised to the ex-militant leaders by the federal government during the Presidential Amnesty Proclamation. Boyloaf has become an instrument for security and socio-economic growth in the Niger Delta region.”
Chief Daniels stated that “peace is expensive,” and that “during the Iraq war, it was reported by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that the United States Government Department of Defense (DoD) was obligating an average of almost $11 billion a month for expenses associated with its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other activities related to the war on terrorism. Most of that amount (more than $9 billion per month) was related to operations in Iraq, and over $3 billion USD every month was spent on locals to quell the insurgency in Iraq.”
The stakeholders called on the Federal Government to incorporate the structures and ideas of these Ex-militant Leaders in order to achieve peace and stability across the country, stating that “the peace in the Niger Delta region has allowed our nation to profit from the sales of crude oil and gas products and it is clear evidence that it has worked over the decades. Boyloaf’s records and reputation speak for itself, and as we are all aware, no one better understands these security challenges and strategies more than Boyloaf. The Niger Delta peace is a collective action that must not be truncated by politically sponsored and incorrect publications,” the statement reads.