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X-raying 4yrs of N/Delta amnesty proclamation

By Michael Jegede

Not many Nigerians believed the proclamation of amnesty for Niger Delta militants made on June 25, 2009 by the federal government under the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua was going to make any significant impact in the activities of the agitators in the region.

In actual fact, like I noted in one of my previous write-ups, many had doubted the sincerity of government to fulfilling its side of the deal, which has to do with the pledge to institute programmes to assist the disarmament, demobilisation, rehabilitation and provision of integration support, after the militants must have declared their willingness and readiness to surrender their arms, unreservedly forsake militancy and sign an undertaking to that effect.

In his address, after accepting the recommendations of the presidential panel constituted to set out the terms, procedures and processes of granting of an amnesty to the Niger Delta militants, the late Yar'Adua had emphasized that, “the offer of amnesty is predicated on the willingness and readiness of the militants to give up all illegal arms in their possession, completely renounce militancy in all its ramifications unconditionally, and depose to an undertaking to this effect. It is my fervent hope that all militants in the Niger Delta will take advantage of this amnesty and come out to join in the quest for the transformation of our dear nation.”

Four years down the line, I do not think it will be wrong to say that the introduction of the amnesty programme by the late President, fully supported by his then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan and now President, has really paid off. The amnesty proclamation is seen to have made momentous impact in the return of peace to the Niger Delta, an area that was previously known to be the imprint of violence and massive destruction with the conducts of the agitators.

At a media briefing to mark four years of amnesty declaration and three years of its operation and implementation, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta matters and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Hon. Kingsley Kuku, noted that the programme has achieved the aim for which it was created.

His words: “Four years on, the amnesty proclamation and the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation) programme for former agitators in the Niger Delta, which commenced three years ago, have met the desired goal, which is the stabilization of security conditions in the Niger Delta. All agitators who were in the creeks fighting against the Federal Government and impacting against investments and oil production have been disarmed, demobilized and are either currently in training or have since been trained, with a view to adding to national Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and improving themselves and their families. A total of 30,000 persons were enlisted in the amnesty programme. Of this number, over 14,000 have been deployed to universities as well as vocational training centres, both within the country and abroad for various skills acquisition programmes and formal education.”

Continuing, Kuku said: “The ex-militants who accepted the amnesty and made positive use of the platform have become experts in various fields. At the fourth anniversary, the amnesty office presented 24 pilots that had completed their training in South Africa among whom are two instructors. Nine others who were also presented had completed their masters degrees in the United Kingdom, while five others successfully completed their professional training and employed in oil firms.”

According the Niger Delta amnesty chief, “2299 delegates are currently undergoing various forms of skills acquisition in Nigeria and other parts of the world. For vocational training, beneficiaries of the amnesty programme are in France, United States of America, Italy, Greece, Poland, South Korea, Isreal, Belarus, Romania, United Kingdom, Croatia, Cyprus, United Arab Emirates, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Ghana, Jordan, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.”

In a statement issued on the fourth year of amnesty pronouncement, Vice Chairman Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, said the National Assembly will continue to support the programme, in order to sustain the peace that has come to stay in the oil-rich region.

According to Abatemi-Usman, the Niger Delta amnesty, proclaimed by the late Yar'Adua, remains the most genuine, noble and thoughtful step taken by any federal government, in tackling the agitation for fairness, equity and development in the Niger Delta since Nigeria attained Independence.

The Vice Chairman, who had led a delegation from the National Assembly on an oversight/inspection visit in September last year to the Afrika Union Aviation Academy in Mafikeng and the Flight Training Services in Midrand, South Africa, where 53 Niger Delta youths were being trained as pilots, expressed satisfaction over the proper implementation of the programme.

Commending President Goodluck Jonathan for ensuring the sustenance of the programme despite the demise of the initiator, Abatemi-Usman said: “It is exactly four years today (June 25, 2013) that President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua of blessed memory fully assisted by the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan made the amnesty proclamation for Niger Delta militants, who were up in arms against the government, fighting the just cause of asking for justice and equity for the region producing the resources that serve as the mainstay of the country's economy. The programme as packaged by the Federal Government has helped in no small measure in the restoration of peace to the hitherto crisis-ridden region, where vandalization, kidnapping and all sort of criminal activities were the order of the day.”

He added that the amnesty programme paved way for the increase in crude oil production level from 700,000 barrel per day to about 2.6 million barrels a day, until recently that oil theft was said to have reduced it to about 2.1m barrel per day. According to him, the amnesty office under the dynamic leadership of Kuku must be encouraged to build on the successes recorded so far in the running of the programme.

Kuku at various fora had declared that the amnesty programme will be wrapped up in 2015. I would want to use this medium to urge him to endeavour to ensure that the 30, 000 ex-militants, who surrendered their arms and signed on to the programme have all been sent out for their different trainings before it is finally closed. If 2015 remains the closing date, for the programme, in the words of Kuku, he need to know that he has to redouble his effort to be able to cover the rest 16,000, since he claimed that 14,000 have already been deployed for educational and vocational trainings in various parts of the world.

Michael Jegede, a media expert and public affairs commentator writes from Abuja