Despite Government Appeal, Angry Ex-militants Protest Unpaid Stipends, Ground Traffic


Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

In spite of an appeal made to ex-Niger Delta agitators by the Bayelsa state government to suspend their proposed protest, hundreds of angry former militants from Bayelsa and Delta States on Monday disrupted traffic for hours along the Mbiama-Yenagoa section of the popular East-West Road.

The youths said that they were demonstrating against the delayed payment of their five-month stipends by the Federal Government despite assurances from the Presidential Amnesty Office.

The protest, which caused a disruption of traffic along the busy road, left travellers stranded for some hours while many vehicle owners, commercial drivers and commuters were stuck in the gridlock for several hours.

Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State had appealed to the ex-militants to be calm and exercise patience with the Federal Government over the delay in the payment.

He had also called on the Presidential Amnesty Office to urgently pay whatever was due the ex-agitators in the spirit of equity and fair play, to avoid a breakdown of law and order.

The governor on Sunday noted that he had reports that there were plans by the ex-militants to protest the non-payments of their stipends by the Federal Government.

A statement issued in Yenagoa by the State Commissioner for Information, Jonathan Obuebite, quoted Dickson as advising all stakeholders in the Niger Delta struggle to “eschew violence and live in peace” as issues concerning their welfare will soon be addressed by the Federal Government.

But the ex-agitators, who arrived the Mbiama-Yenagoa junction of the road yesterday morning, with several placards, warned President Muhammadu Buhari against introducing politics into the programme.

Chanting solidarity songs, the demonstrators wielded placards such as “Buhari, Pay us our stipends”, ’don’t politicize Niger Delta Amnesty” and “Boroh pay us our money”.

However, to prevent chaos and breakdown of order, heavily armed soldiers and other security personnel were seen at the scene of the protest.