OPEN LETTER TO YOUR EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, GCFR, ON THE NEED TO EXPAND AND ENLARGE THE PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY PROGRAMME IN THE NIGER DELTA
YOUR EXCELLENCY, SIR,
1. We wish to thank you for the faithful implementation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, which has bought about relative peace to the Niger Delta Region. We are also grateful for appointing Hon. Kingsley Kuku – a man of impeccable integrity to be Special Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP. We are indeed impressed with the colossal strides taken by the office in executing its mandate of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. From the records at our disposal, government is working on the reintegrating of the 26,358 ex-militants from the first and second phase of the programme. The number of ex-combatants undergoing reintegration is very negligible considering the rising population of unemployed youths in the NDR.
2. We wish to acknowledge the fact that at the time the PAP was introduced; most of the ex-combatants had their misgivings and therefore were skeptical about the modus operandi of the Programme. The result was that most of the ex-combatants who had the intention of enrolling in the capacity building programmes of the PAP, reneged because of the fear of the unknown. Now, the PAP has yielded enormous dividends and the programme is a resounding success. It has brought peace to the hitherto turbulent Region and increased oil production – which is the major foreign exchange earner of the country. Figure produced by the Petroleum Ministry indicate that oil export figures have improved from 800,000 barrels per day during the period of intense militancy - 2006-2008 to 2.3 million barrels per day in 2010. Besides, the PAP has drastically reduced the menace of kidnapping and destruction of oil facilities. The successes achieved so far is attributable to Mr. President's commitment to sustain peace and security of lives and property in the Country, while at the same time creating a conducive environment for oil production.
3. We disagree with Hon. Kingsley Kuku - the Amnesty Chief that the Amnesty window has closed and we do not believe that there no third phase in the Amnesty Programme. We vehemently state that there has to be a third window to accommodate those who were left out in the earlier phases. Hon. Kuku's argument that the Niger Delta Development Commission, the Ministry of Niger Delta, State and LGAs should provide alternative means of empowerment for the unemployed youths in the Region is most plausible and germane but the reality is that most youths have more confidence in the Amnesty Programme than other Agencies in the Region. Through the PAP, Niger Delta youths have inundated the training institutes in Ghana, South Africa, the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, India and so many countries around the world. Soon, the Niger Delta will produce lots of pipeline and Under-water Welders, Pilots, Boat Builders, Seafarers, Marine Engineers and ICT gurus among others. Our main concern is how government can create room for massive industrialization to absorb both high calibre and intermediate manpower produced by the various capacity building initiatives. Youths that were hitherto de-skilled have now acquired skills and competences to enable them manipulate economic processes.
4. Your Excellency, without recourse to details, there are imminent signs of a resurgence of militancy in the Region. Fresh violence has erupted in parts of the Region; oil theft, kidnapping and destruction of oil facilities including killing of military personnel seem to have reared their ugly heads again and all these are well orchestrated to undermine the gains of the PAP. We fear a relapse to the status quo ante. We of the civil society detest criminality under any guise in the Region, as we believe that the Amnesty Deal is still in force. We remember vividly that on three occasions, youths from the Region had protested that they be included in the THIRD PHASE of the Amnesty Programme. We do not want criminals to capitalize on the excuse of non-inclusion of ex-combatants in the THIRD PHASE to foment trouble again. Mr. President, this is the time to prove the detractors of the Federal Government wrong.
5. We are aware that Mr. President has said many times that the Amnesty Programme had no third phase, but if the essence of the PAP is to build an enduring peace through the various empowerment programmes, it will not be too much for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to graciously make another proclamation to accommodate the dissenting elements. Already about 3,000 aggrieved youths now claimed to be the "Third Phase" of ex-militants. We believe and rightly so, that this is one prerogative Mr. President can exercise to give the youths the benefit of doubt.
6. Whereas the Niger Delta Problem is hydra-headed and therefore calls for synergy among all key stakeholders, we believe that the current youth empowerment programmes can better be handled by the PAP. This is the general consensus. We are persuades to believe that the successful management of the programme by the Presidency through the Office of the Special Adviser on the PAP is one of the strongest statements Your Excellency's administration has made towards the commitment of developing the Region and alleviating the plight of the people.
7. The PAP boss made it clear that the programme has accommodated more than 26,000 youths from the Niger Delta Region, adding that although some youths vehemently advocating for inclusion, the programme has closed. This door was not carved by King Hammurabi and the only mantra that can open it is the PROCLAMATION OF PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN. ONLY YOUR PROCLAMATION CAN OPEN A NEW PHASE OF THE PAP.
8. The Niger Delta Region is yet to grapple with the monumental environmental challenges and the Federal Government has not done enough to assuage the fears of near ecological genocide in our communities. Development in road infrastructure is less than desirable and the misery index is increasing by the day. Peace-building consists of a wide range of activities associated with capacity building, reconciliation, and societal transformation. Long-term peace-building techniques are designed to fill this gap, and to address the underlying substantive issues that brought about conflict. The PAP might have been conceived as a stop-gap measure, its dividends have made it necessary to be adopted as a long-term violence prevention measure and at the same time promote youth empowerment. Mr. President, we cannot afford a relapse to our violent past, NEVER! HISTORY WILL NOT FORGIVE US IF WE DO NOT TAKE MEASURES TO PREVENT A RELAPSE AND DERAILMENT OF A PROGRAMME THAT HAS BROUGHT SO MUCH HOPE AND SUCCOUR TO OUR YOUTHS.
9. Your Excellency, Sir, we passionately appeal that you exercise your prerogative, in your usual magnanimity to graciously open the THIRD PHASE of the PAP. We believe that the PAP should not just be seen as a Strategy to build peace in our beleaguered Region but also as a potent tool for youth empowerment – the dividends of which have become evident. We know that the pronouncements of transformational leaders are not cast in iron and it has become imperative for Your Excellency to use your oval office to consider the inclusion of the faithful remnants into the THIRD PHASE of the PAP. Your Excellency, Sir, we trust that you will graciously oblige to our request. The THIRD PHASE OF THE PAP IS THE MASTERSTROKE WE NOW DESIRE.
Thank you in anticipation of your kind consideration.
Idumange John: 07039103572
Mrs. Susan Serekara-Nwi-khana
FOR: NIGER DELTA INTEGRITY GROUP