04 April 2009

Bayelsa paying off militants?

Written by Pemii Ben

Fresh trouble is brewing between the Bayelsa State Government and the insurgents in that state following a recent government announcement to cut the monthly allowances given to militants. Trouble started when the state governor, Chief Timipre Sylva made the announcement after what is credited to the governor as “tough deliberations bothering on funds.” The state government in recent times has complained of lack of funds, raising the eyebrows of stakeholders. Many asked what the state’s monthly allocation was used for, but got no answers. This led to further independent probing of government expenditures.

Results from further investigations then pointed in the direction of the state government’s secret arrangement with militants in the state, which has been confirmed to be gulping over one hundred million naira every month from state coffers. Initially, the government of Bayelsa state dismissed the findings as simply a ploy from one of the administration’s many detractors. Even when it was reported elsewhere that the state government was camping militants in the government house, it was equally dismissed as the handiwork of paid hatchet men who do not appreciate the governor’s efforts at transforming Bayelsa state.

The cat was however let out of the bag by Governor Timipre Sylva himself during one of the sessions of his radio Bayelsa Program titled “Relax with Gov. Sylva”. The day’s subject of discussion was militancy. The governor disclosed that militants have been sending text messages to him threatening to make the state un overnable, should he dare reduce their monthly ‘allocation’ to anything below the usual one hundred million naira. The irony about this development is that the same Gov. Sylva in the recent past granted an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, during which he denounced militants, calling them criminals, gangsters and hungry boys who do not want to be useful to society. Yet the same governor has been funding militants that occupy over ten camps in Bayelsa. Most agree that this places a serious question mark on the governor’s ‘efforts’ at combating militancy.

In a telephone interview, the Action Congress in the state described the threat issued by militants to the governor, as sad, unfortunate and as a serious indictment on the government of Bayelsa state who has persistently denied involvement with militants. The party has described the current situation in the state as critical and as such impedes the development of the state. AC expressed utter disappointment over the channeling of huge sums of taxpayer money into paying off militants instead of building social orientation and rehabilitation centers, where aggrieved and restive youth could be responsibly and gainfully rehabilitated. The party is calling for a review of government policies to reflect people-oriented programmes.

In the interim, local government elections have yet to be held in Bayelsa after the December 2008 postponement for shortage of funds.