Scores of aggrieved ex-militants from Bayelsa and Delta states on Monday staged a protest over delayed payment of their five-month amnesty stipends by the Federal Government.
For hours, the protesting ex-agitators disrupted traffic on Mbiama-Yenagoa section of the East-West Road, a major expressway linking the South-South with other regions.
Many travellers and other road users were stranded for many hours as motorists, commercial drivers and commuters were stuck in the gridlock caused by the protest.
The ex-militants, who arrived the Mbiama-Yenagoa junction of the road as early as 6am, brandished placards with inscriptions: “Buhari, pay us our stipends”, “Don’t politicise Niger Delta Amnesty” and “Boroh pay us our money”, among others.
Heavily armed soldiers and other security personnel were at the scene of the protest to forestall any breakdown of the law and order.
It took the intervention of the Commander of the Joint Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie, for the former agitators to back track and open the road to traffic.
Okojie urged the ex-militants to be patient with authorities, assuring them that their stipends would be paid to them.
Last Sunday, a day before the protest, the Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Seriake Dickson, had appealed to ex-militants to be calm and exercise patience with the Federal Government over the delayed stipends.
Dickson in a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Jonathan Obuebite, also called on the Presidential Amnesty Office to urgently pay whatever was due the ex-agitators.
The governor said he got wind of plans by the ex-agitators to distrupt the peace and national assets.
Dickson advised all stakeholders in the region to “eschew violence and live in peace”, insisting that issues concerning their welfare would soon be addressed by the Federal Government.
Reacting to the protest, the Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brig.-Gen. Paul Boroh (retd), said the delayed stipends of the ex-militants would be paid this week.
Boroh in a statement by the Bayelsa State Liaison Officer, PAP, Mr. Piriye Kiyaramo, lamented the plight of the ex-agitators over the delayed stipends.
He restated the Federal government’s commitment to re-engineering the amnesty programme for the benefits of the ex-agitators.
He said that his office was doing everything humanly possible to ensure that the stipends of the ex-militants were paid as of when due.
He said it would be counterproductive for ex-agitators to take to the streets at a time the government was making serious efforts to resolve some of the issues confronting the programme.
Boroh called on all agitators in the Niger Delta region to shun acts that were inimical to public peace, adding that anti-social actions such as violent street protests could be hijacked by hoodlums to cause mayhem and discredit the programme.