By Sola Adebayo, John Alechenu, Fidelis Soriwei, Olusola Fabiyi andIhuoma Chiedozie:
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday met with members of the Presidential Coordinating Committee on Niger Delta over the bomb blasts that aborted a post-amnesty conference in Warri, Delta State, on Monday.
A Presidency source disclosed this in Abuja just as the Federal Government vowed that those behind the blasts would be arrested and brought to justice.
Already, two suspects are in police net in connection with the incident.
The meeting and the government’s vow came amid tension in most of the Niger Delta states in the wake of the Warri incidents.
Our Presidency source, who pleaded anonymity, said that Jonathan was concerned that the incident, which left three dead and six injured, could reverse the gains of the Federal Government amnesty programme.
He said that the meeting, which held behind closed doors, was convened to review the situation in the Niger Delta and immediately devise strategies to accelerate the implementation of the post-amnesty programme.
Details of what transpired were not made known to journalists, as members of the PCC refused to talk.
Government officials in attendance were the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd); Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godsday Orubebe; Minister of Interior, Alhaji Mustapha Shetimma; Minister of Police Affairs, Dr. Ibrahim Lame; Minister of Finance, Dr. Mansur Mukhtar; Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey; and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN).
Jonathan, who later met with the Niger Delta Minister, Chief Ufot Ekaette and Orubebe, ordered a speedy implementation of the post-amnesty programme.
His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ima Niboro, told journalists after the meeting that the Acting President advised that all stakeholders must be involved in the implementation of the programme.
He said, “Today (Tuesday), the Acting President gave a marching orders to all agencies and bodies involved in the amnesty process to immediately go to work and ensure that whatever challenges that are holding up in these areas be surmounted immediately so that the process can move ahead flawlessly.
“We know that the area of infrastructure development may take a little more time, but he has also directed the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to fast-track all issues concerning infrastructure development programme of the region so that the perception that the amnesty programme is sleeping is corrected.
“He has also appealed that all stakeholders be brought on board so that we can all be on the same page as far as the issue of amnesty is concerned, whether community leaders, governors; all stakeholders including militant leaders must be on the same page, since the amnesty is for the militants in the first place.
“The militants are key stakeholders in this; the whole amnesty is about them.”
He described the meeting as an “emergency,” saying that a full meeting that would have governors in attendance would take place next week.
On the impact of the bombing in Warri, Niboro said, “There is already a programme; what is needed is for the programme to be fast-tracked.
“All we are saying is that all red tapes should be cut through and go straight to the brass tracks and get the jobs done. That is the position of the Acting President.
“In the coming days we want to see the rehabilitation process proceeding at pace; we would also want to see concrete issues being put in place as the Niger Delta Ministry has been asked to fast track this process.”
Also in Abuja, the Minister of Police Affairs, Dr. Lame, said the Federal Government was investigating the bomb blasts.
He fielded questions from journalists after inaugurating 134 Toyota Hilux patrol vans meant for the community policing programme of the Police at the Force headquarters.
The minister also debunked insinuations in some quarters that there was a rift between him and the Inspector- General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, which had made him (Lame) to criticise the Police for non-performance.
The minister commended the police for what he called their proactive action which, according to him, helped to minimise the casualty figures.
Three people were reported to have died when two bombs went off outside the venue of the post-amnesty dialogue at the Delta State Government House Annex in Warri.
The minister said, “The bomb blast is being investigated and the IG is on top of the situation. He just briefed me this morning about what they did before the incident.
“Even before the actual thing took place they took certain measures to ensure that this thing did not happen and if they did not take the steps they took the casualty figures would have been something else.
“Because everybody who entered the building was screened, every vehicle that was supposed to go there was stopped some distance from the area. I think only the governors and the minister were allowed to enter there.
“So, if all these vehicles were allowed to enter there, you can imagine what would have happened that day.
“It was really something bad; it is something that we could say a lot of work went into it, a lot of work is going into it to ensure those who perpetrated it are brought to justice.”
There was, however, tension in parts of the Niger Delta on Tuesday as a result of the bomb blasts on Monday in Warri.
The apprehension was particularly palpable in Delta State where a meeting between Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and security security chiefs was postponed and in Bayelsa State where security was beefed up by the police.
In Akwa Ibom and Rivers states, there were no unusual police presence on the streets but discussions by many residents centred on the blasts in Warri and the need for security to be beefed up in the two states.
However, this apprehension was not limited to the Niger Delta States. In Abuja, a city that is more than 600 kilometres from Warri, balloon bursts caused a mild stir at the venue of a national conference on the electoral process.
The event was organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Among the conference participants that almost took to their heels were the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Kayode Adetokunbo, who represented the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
The drama occurred at 10.30 a.m. just as the event was about to start at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Three of the balloons went off with a loud bang in the hall. It took some minutes for the participants to realise that it was harmless balloons that burst.
Earlier, the venue of the event had been stormed by anti-bomb experts who screened all participants and accredited them before allowing them entry into the main hall.
A politician on the long queue asked, “What are we doing here, is it a meeting for an election or we are going to war? Look at the presence of the police and security here.”
Meanwhile, the Senate will today (Wednesday) deliberate on the bomb blasts in Warri. The decision was sequel to a point of order raised by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Mr. Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN).
Relying on Order 42 of the Senate Standing Orders 2007, as Amended Ndoma-Egba drew the attention of his colleagues to the blast which occurred at the post amnesty dialogue organized by Vanguard newspapers and sponsored by the Delta State government.
Order 42 (1) reads: “The matter for discussion shall, if possible, be referred to the President of the Senate before commencement of the day’s sitting and the President of the Senate shall refuse to allow the claim unless he is satisfied that the matter is definite and urgent.”
Ndoma-Egba’s point of order was taken but the matter was stood down till the next legislative day in order to allow him present a proper motion.
Senate spokesman, Mr. Ayoyu Eze, said, “The Deputy Senate Leader did move a motion on order 42 of matter of urgent national importance.
“That matter is coming in plenary tomorrow and it will be unfair for me to now begin to poke my hand into what will happen tomorrow.
“It is important for you to know that the Senate is distressed enough to have admitted it as an emergency item to be taking as a matter of urgent national importance because we believe it is a very serious matter.”
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