AMNESTY: A BATTLE BETWEEN EX-MILITANTS AND NIGER DELTA
There is a quiet war of supremacy between the entire informed Niger Delta people and the so-called ex-militants from the oil rich region, due to Amnesty Programme instituted for former Niger Delta militants.
This surreptitious battle between the land and the people was intensified as soon as General Muhammadu Buhari recently appointed P.T. Boroh, a retired brigadier general, as the Coordinator of the programme, replacing Kingsley Kuku.
While a minute number of Niger Deltans christened ex-Militants are enjoying and their arrowheads benefiting immensely from the programme, the entire Niger Delta land remains besmirched by environmental degradations caused by government oil exploration activities.
This programme might have brought peace to the minds of those whose aim was perhaps to cause uproar and then wait for ways to benefit from the troubles they caused, but there is yet to be peace in the entire oil producing communities of Niger Delta.
Imagine that the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report only on Ogoni is yet to be implemented since 2011 it was handed over to the then presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. The UNEP report whispered that only for Ogoniland, it required an initial capital injection of US$1 billion to clean up the pollution caused by theNigerian government in collaboration with oil companies in the area, which will take 35 years to achieve.
That was coming after the UNEP team engaged in a 14-month period examination of more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings in the area.
And, here is the government talking about amnesty when the entire Niger Delta is in ruins. While the so-called ex-militants and their cronnies are smiling fat due the amnesty programme, the country’s oil production stands at over 2.6mbpd, as against 700,000bpd, when the militants disturbed oil production activities in the region.
It was the then Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, and co-ordinator of the Niger-Delta Amnesty programme, Kingsley Kuku who made this known.
Kuku added that the government had saved 2.6million barrels of oil daily which respectively amounted to N6trn since the beginning of the amnesty programme. Did you hear that? The amnesty programme is invariably not for the gains of the Niger Delta people but for militants, owing to the unruly disposition they have held against the Federal government of Nigeria and the oil firms.
It is obvious today that the minute number benefiting from the amnesty programme would not want the international pressures that saw to the implementation of the programme to be lengthened to the resuscitation of the Niger Delta; where people are being killed daily by intractable diseases as a result of pollutants they have come to live with consistently around the residences.
Hardly are the people talking about the wellbeing of the entire Niger Delta region, but the welfare of the ex-militants and their cronnies. That there is amnesty in the Niger Delta does not mean that peace is now reigning. What many of us had expected was how to sustain the entire Niger Delta communities and not the deafening approach freshly heard on how to sustain and strengthen the amnesty programme, thereby there is a total negligence of the hen that layed the golden egg.
Much as we know, the Niger Delta will outlive the amnesty programme. So, the question today is how long the programme shall last, whereas the people and their land are suffering untold ruins accruing from negligence that has metamorphosed to total decadence in the Niger Delta. Whereas the so-called ex-Militants want an unambiguous pronouncement on amnesty quota system, Niger Delta region hence suffers inattention from the federal character.
The ex-Militants are today regarded as Survivors and not Criminals, courtesy of former president of Nigeria, the late Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, who on assumption of office in May 2007, included the Niger-Delta as part of his administration's seven-point agenda. The effect of the programme is the economic terrorism the federal government has continued to embark on the Niger Delta to the detriment of the farming lands and rivers in the area, while massaging the backs of a few persons with the poppycock named amnesty programme.
It will be foolhardy for somebody to say that the programme has realised its purpose. Then, you ask, which purpose? The purpose of selecting few persons for trainings and whatever somewhere whereas their land is being damaged for economic interests in the hands of government?
Just as telecommunication companies continue to build their heavily laden radioactive masts around neighbourhoods circulating cancer and other obdurate diseases and pay the residents pittance for allowing them lands to build their masts, it is true that the arms-struggle that was once experienced in the Niger Delta saw to the institutionalisation of the Niger Delta Ministry and a talk on 13% Derivation Fund, but in earnest the Niger Delta Ministry has become Niger Delta Misery. It is titular! Just there in name, but not people and land oriented. Go round the Niger Delta and weep, but millions of dollars were said are paid to ex-militant leaders for handing in their weapons to the government in 2011.
Written by Odimegwu Onwumere, a Poet/Writer.
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