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As Stakeholders call on FG for prompt release of funds for Amnesty Programme
Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo, says the hitherto volatile region has turned the most peaceful part of the country. He said the Niger Delta region is presently the most conducive for development.
Dokubo, who hailed initiators of the Amnesty Programme for ex-agitators, said the prevailing peace in the region is an indication of the successes so far recorded. He spoke in Lagos on Wednesday, at a meeting with leaders of the Niger Delta which had traditional rulers, ex-governors, as well as community leaders and other critical stakeholders, in attendance.
While reiterating his determination to speedily retool the Amnesty Programme to make it more robust and impactful for the enlisted former agitators in the Niger Delta region, he said the ultimate goal of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is to achieve sustainable development in all facets of the region.
“I am exceedingly grateful to God Almighty for making this day possible. I have really been looking forward to this family meeting. It is therefore with immense joy that I welcome all of you all. As most of you may recall, on the 13th of March 2018, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari graciously appointed me to serve as the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme with a clear mandate to speedily retool the Programme to make it more robust and impactful for the enlisted former agitators in the Niger Delta region of our great country. I commend most honestly, the initiators of the Presidential Amnesty Programme. It is not a secret that the Programme has since 2010 aided the attainment of relative peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta. Today, the region, once noted for its volatility, may well be regarded as the most peaceful part of Nigeria.
Since inception, the Amnesty Programme, to a reasonable extent, has achieved its core mandate of aiding the processes of building and sustaining peace and safety in the Niger Delta and the entire Gulf of Guinea. I am not saying that we have attained perfection or Eldorado of sorts; I am only saying that the situation would have been far worse in the region and of course for the economy of our dear country. I do not believe that there is any one here who is not aware that prior to the proclamation of unconditional amnesty for former agitators in the Niger Delta in 2009, disruptions in the exploration, processing and export of crude oil almost brought our economy to a standstill.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s economy which largely depends on earnings from oil exports, hemorrhaged very badly during this sad era of militancy. I have since found out that the situation got so bad that on a particular day in 2008, Nigeria was only able to produce 700,000 barrels of crude oil. Today, owing to the success of the Amnesty Programme, Nigeria is now able to meet its current OPEC Quota of 2.2 Million Barrels per day. We must all thank, most profusely, the ex-agitators in the Niger Delta who have continued to keep the peace in accordance with the pact they entered into with the Federal Government after accepting the offer of amnesty.
Kudos must also go to you our traditional, religious, opinion, intellectual and community leaders as well as the leaderships of ethnic nationalities and youth groups in the Niger Delta. If you did not show leadership, persons enlisted in the Presidential Amnesty Programme may well have derailed. So, topmost among the reasons why I have called this meeting is to, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria thank you all most sincerely for the critical roles you have all continued to play either as individuals or group to help sustain and even deepen peace in the Niger Delta.
I chose to regard the Niger Delta as work-in-progress and I am happy to inform the leaders of the region assembled here that the ultimate goal of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is to achieve sustainable development in all facets of the region. Indeed, previous administrations at the federal level easily cited the absence of a “conducive environment” for not developing the Niger Delta. The good news is that, speaking about peace, safety and security, I dare say that the Niger Delta is perhaps the most conducive region for development in Nigeria today. Our great nation has everyone in this hall to thank for this”.
Dokubo said from findings and recommendations of a committee he constituted on assumption of office to review the Amnesty Programme, as well his interactions with key stakeholders, including the leadership of the ex-agitators, he mapped out his priority, which included the completion and activation of all the vocational training centres under construction across the states in the Niger Delta to fast track the training of the several beneficiaries awaiting skills acquisition, and empowerment through the provision of start-up packs and mentoring for several of the already trained and qualified ex-agitators to become entrepreneurs and possibly employ others.
According to him, other priority areas are properly care and sanitization of the Education Department to make it more impactful and cost effective; restoring the certainty and sanctity of the database of the Presidential Amnesty Programme with strong measures in place to deter and forestall future breaches; holding regular consultative meetings with the Programmes’ critical stakeholders, and effective liaison with Governments of the states in the Niger Delta with a view to creating platforms for gainful employment for already trained ex-agitators.
At the end of the meeting which held at the Eko Hotels and Suites, participants resolved that:
- Leaders of the Niger Delta urge the Federal Government to graciously release funds allocated to the Presidential Amnesty Programme promptly, as at when due.
- The training programmes for beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme should be revised to properly engage them to be employable.
- Inclusion of more beneficiaries into the Presidential Amnesty Programme to be done through a presidential proclamation. However, it is the prerogative of the president to act in this regard.
- An awareness campaign is undertaken by the Amnesty Office to enlighten ex-agitators and youths in the Niger Delta that it is the people of the region that suffers environmental degradation occasioned by pipeline vandalization.
- That indigent youths from impacted communities in the Niger Delta region including those from ethnic nationalities that were hitherto marginalized in the Presidential Amnesty Programme who can do well educationally, be trained by the Amnesty Office.
- That stakeholders’ meetings should be held regularly in the Niger Delta region to reflect the peace currently prevailing and to enhance economic development.