Hundreds of ex-Niger Delta militants on Tuesday protested the alleged non-payment of arrears of their stipends by the Federal Government.
The protesting ex-militants, under Phases 1–3 of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, who began the demonstration about 7am, blocked the Mbiama section of the East-West Road, a major gateway linking the South-South region with other regions.
They prevented motorists and other road users from passing through the expressway.
But respite came the way of the trapped motorists and commercial drivers not when a detachment of troops of the Joint Military Task Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Delta Safe, stormed the scene and dispersed the protesters.
The troops arrived the area in two patrol vans to remove the blockade and open the road to the public about 7.30am.
The soldiers fired several warning shots into the air which created confusion among the protesters, compelling them to run in different directions, scampering for safety.
It was, however, learnt that one of the protesting ex-militants was allegedly hit by a stray bullet from the soldiers’ shots.
An ex-militant, who is on the Phase 1 of the amnesty programme, Elliot Seimiebo, accused the soldiers of using firearms to disperse a peaceful protest aimed at drawing the attention of the Federal Government to the neglect of their welfare.
HE said, “We had renounced violence and remained peaceful in all our approaches. Our intention was to draw attention to the nonpayment of our stipends for four months.
“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 stray bullet and got injured in his leg.”
When contacted, spokesperson for Operation Delta Safe, Lt.-Cdr. Thomas Otuji, said that the claim that protesters were shot was untrue.
Otuji stated, “Our troops were sent to the scene to ensure free flow of traffic and they went there to clear the blockade on the East-West road.
“And there is no such report at my disposal as we speak. The protesters were professionally dispersed.”
Also, Liaison Officer at the Amnesty Office in Yenagoa, Piriye Kirayamo, said the office was aware of the liabilities to the ex-militants, assuring them that efforts were underway to clear the backlog of stipends.
“We have been in discussion with the ex-agitators and have been appealing to them to remain calm. The office is doing everything possible to ensure that their stipends were paid,” Kiyaramo said.
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