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AMNESTY: Again, tension mounts in Niger Delta

Buhari

Buhari

• Absence of coordinator stalls programme
• 2000 ex-militants stranded in UK
• Lufthansa drops 13 trainee pilots
• ‘Office has over N10b unspent funds’
• FG breaking peace pact, say Ijaw youths
• MEND commanders meet tomorrow

TROUBLE is brewing in the Niger Delta, as administrative lull in the Amnesty Office stalls disbursement of funds for ex-militants.

Investigations showed that the militants, who accepted the late President Umaru Yar’Adua/former President Goodluck Jonathan’s offer of amnesty in August 2009 and were placed on monthly stipend, have not been paid in the last three months due to absence of an authorising signatory.

Already, leaders and unit commanders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) are scheduled to hold what one of them called “a strategic meeting” tomorrow in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

Ex-militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, convened the meeting of ex-generals of the movement, which, it was gathered, will revive the activities of MEND and discuss the state of the nation in relation to the Niger Delta.

The meeting was scheduled just as the Presidency reportedly said it would probe only Jonathan’s administration to avoid what could turn out an endless search.

Former Special Adviser to immediate past President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Mr. Kinsley Kuku, had left office with Jonathan, who, as vice president under Ya’Adua, co-founded the scheme in 2009 to assuage militants, who were ready to lay down their arms at the time. President Muhammadu Buhari, in his inaugural speech, affirmed the programme’s December 2015 terminal date, but did not disclose any ‘exit strategy’ that would ensure that outstanding commitments are cleared.

Goodluck

Goodluck

“The amnesty programme in the Niger Delta is due to end in December, but the government intends to invest heavily in the projects, and programmes currently in place,’ the President said.

“I call on the leadership and people in these areas to cooperate with the state and federal governments in the rehabilitation programmes, which will be streamlined and made more effective. As ever, I am ready to listen to grievances of my fellow Nigerians. I extend my hand of fellowship to them so that we can bring peace and build prosperity for our people.”

However, no appointments have been made to fill the gap created by Kuku’s ‘resignation.’

The Guardian gathered that Lufthansa, a German airline, has dropped 13 trainee-pilots following the failure of the Federal Government to pay up their fees.

Also thousands and thousands of other ex-militants on overseas training have been thrown out by the foreign institutions, with a handful of them returning to Niger Delta in the last few weeks. Broke and restive, the militants’ presence in the region is creating palpable fear among communities, The Guardian was told.

Mr. Amangala Joshua, an ex-militant, who said he and 2000 others were thrown out of the Liverpool’s John Moores University, last Sunday, led a handful of his colleagues back to the country.

He said there are over 2000 of them, spread across several institutions in the United Kingdom, who could no longer pay their fees or monthly accommodation. “Specifically, there are 11 of us in my own school,” Amangala said on telephone yesterday.

At government’s expense, through the Amnesty Office, many of the ex-militants are on postgraduate scholarship programmes in South Africa, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Russia and United States of America (USA).

A substantial number of youths were also sent to Israel for agricultural training; India, for information and communication technology (ICT) and to Poland, for crane operation and pipeline welding.

Mr Timi Alaibe was the first Special Adviser on Niger Delta during Yar’Adua’s administration. He also coordinated the PAP.

According to Amangala, thousands of other militants in the UK and U.S., who now face visa violations, are struggling to survive, and possibly return to Nigeria.

In the UK — a welfare state — for example, some of them have been placed on ‘food stamp;’ but the situation remains different in the U.S., where many, after having their training stalled, face accommodation and self-maintenance crisis.

Some concerned individuals in the Niger Delta — including the President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Udengs Eradiri, and former Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Chairman of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Prince Monday Whiskey — yesterday insisted that the Amnesty Office has more than enough funds to avoid truncation of the programme and possible unrest in the Niger Delta region only if Buhari would authorise someone to sign for immediate disbursement of funds.Umaru-YarAdua Copy

Eradiri said he was worried about the way the current leadership of the country manages issues affecting the Niger Delta. Alleging a breach, by the Federal Government, of the peace agreement with the Niger Delta people, Eradiri stressed that the President’s promise of good governance was anchored on the hope of unfettered flow of oil from the region.

“Yesterday (Tuesday), I was on telephone with our students in London appealing to them not to protest,” he said.

“Actually, there is money in the Amnesty Office, but there is nobody to sign it; Nigerians working in the office are yet to receive their salary. Our boys are not able to pay for monthly accommodation and they are thrown out. Some of them are in court with their landlords. Lufthansa has dropped 13 of our boys.

“As I speak to you, I am under immense pressure in the Niger Delta because a lot of young people are annoyed and we are still begging them,” Eradiri disclosed.

The IYC president, however, stressed: “There is a limit to which we can guarantee peace in the region (because) the Federal Government is breaking the peace agreement.’’

Eradiri also pointed out that Jonathan erred in merging the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and that of the Coordinator of the Amnesty programme. “This was wrong,” he said. According to him, “one is political; the other is not. We need to put someone who has knowledge about the struggle in the Niger Delta to coordinate it; the job is too tedious for one person,” Eradiri said.

Amangala, the ex-militant who returned from the UK with some of his colleagues on Sunday, said “there is more than N10 billion in the (Amnesty) office account, but (there is) no authority to approve it. Authorise the Permanent Secretary in the Villa to help us out,’ Amangala pleaded with the President.

Also confirming that 13 pilot trainees have been dropped by Lufthansa, Whiskey, a Niger Delta activist, in a telephone chat described as an aberration the approval by the National Assembly, of 15 advisers for the President when there was no arrangement for the Amnesty programme.

According to Whiskey, “there is tension everywhere, but our prayer is that it will not grow into full-blown crisis, because government itself has not shown enough commitment.

“If you removed the head of that office, it is necessary you appoint someone almost immediately; or you appoint somebody to be a signatory. The best option is to appoint an adviser who should be answerable to Mr. President and also serve as chairman of the President’s amnesty committee.

“We cannot fathom any reason why the president would gloss over such a sensitive issue. We agree that he needs to take his time but there are some issues where he must be very assertive.”

The Guardian sought clarifications from the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Shehu Garba, who was still on state tour of the United States, at the time. He promised to come up with details once he clarified some of the issues raised by the Niger Delta stakeholders.

Also, the official response to the electronic mail sent to the State House on the issue had not been received at press time.



14 Comments
  • brightasuquoakpan

    This is the stage of crisis management not when it becomes full fledge war,then you draft in military.Presidency probe everybody not only Jonathan,

    • Moonlight

      Niger-Delta militants are cowards. The best way to draw government’s attention in this regard is to blow up major pipelines, then government will be force to response. Buhari is not happy with the amnesty being enjoyed by ex-militants in Niger-Delta. Until Bokoharam is given amnesty, Buhari will not be favourably disposed to paying a dime to ex-militants. Oil belongs to Niger-Delta not Northern oligarchy. Why wait for out sider to share your inheritance to you?

      • Omo Delta

        The amnesty programme management was biased in execution against some sec tions of the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta
        Our Oil should not be distributed among the Northern power hungers and the mercy of the poor Niger Delta
        On Boko Haram, any time amnesty is extended to them means the North is their sponsor as BH is a terrorist organisation and worst of it all an affiliate of ISIL. This is where Buhari will lose credibility before the international community and Nigeria too

  • Ojiyovwi

    I’d like to see a dicisive action against lazy neverdowells who think it is ok to return for more after wasting what was given them in bribe for them to stop the madness of militancy. Yhey should all be rounded up or the community from which they are raised should held to account for cretinic beasts. NO MORE AMNESTY – Let’s hang them all. I say this being a Deltan myself and in full knowledge that some of the lazy individuals and cowards could be my own relatives. Each and every so called militant is a lazy rat and we must send in the pied piper to round them all up and wasted.

    • Omo Delta

      Ojiyovwi, Akpo na che yovwe by brother

  • wilsongaga

    These criminals,do they think they are dealing with fools?,How can someone who does not have primary six certificate be doing masters overseas?,what school did their leader TOMPOLO attend?,which school did ASARI DOKUBOR attend?,How can you go to Germany to learn pipe welding when same who learn in Nigeria here are well engaged in various companies?,How many years does it takes ta complete a masters program?,I think the federal government should follow these criminals with iron hand this time.

  • Ebaah Odibo

    Emperor Nero was asleep while Rome was burning. By the time he woke up, he found a scapegoat in the Christians, whom he ordered burnt at the stake and to be given to wild animals. Once more Rome is burning, and the Emperor is taking his time!

  • Rex

    The last thing we need now is another insurgency in the Niger, if this Country is caught between Boko Haram in the North and MEND in the Niger Delta, I don’t think we would survive it.

  • AMARA.C

    APC IS FRAUD ,NIGERIA IS BLEEDING .BUHARI CHOSE WRONG DIRECTION. Buhari is illiterate he do not know education goes with time and age.

    • Omo Delta

      APC is Not fraud but PDP which is a fraudulent organisation. Although there are some dubious characters in APC but they cannot manipulate Buhari unlike GEJ who was clueless on management issues watching people stealing and looting
      OBJ is equally a corrupt and poor manager of resources and bad leader

  • Maigari

    It seems someone is playing to the gallery here. Consider for a moment that the Niger Delta Programmed office is not run by a Sole Administrator -or is it>- there are other officers probably equally capable. How then could t be that just because the head of the unit was sacked the entire aerogramme ground to a halt. Could it be a one-man-show or most probably;y someone is out to make a killing suddenly found the safe locked against him?

  • Paul Ighotemu Akpofure

    In fairness to all whom are presently undergoing various accede mic and professional program locally and overseas the federal government should ensure that such persons are financially supported u till completion.
    However ,payment of any form of monthly allowances to local militants should be stopped while such may be referred to skill acquisition centres or enlisted in the army or police force .
    Mr President must give the return of these students to various academic or vocational training overseas priority please if our investment in human capital development needs to manifest positively. This’s is an exceptional situation that is beneficial therefore should be completed

    • Omo Delta

      You are welcome

  • emmanuel kalu

    if you got into an agreement( which i think is completely a means of looting) then that agreement should be honored. but there should be a stop time for this program. yes invest in the community, but lets end the payment of money to them. it only encourages this kind of madness.

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