South South leader, Chief Edwin Clark last week in Abuja, spoke with Vanguard on expectations of Niger-Delta citizens. We bring you excerpts of the interview.
By Emmanuel Aziken
WHAT is your assessment of the implementation of the Federal Governmentâ€™s Post Amnesty programme in the Niger Delta?
RIGHT from the beginning we have been expressing doubts about the Federal Governmentâ€™s post amnesty programme. I led the team of elders and leaders of the South-South including the former vice president, former ministers, former senators, professionals and so forth. We went to Uyo and had a meeting for two days. One of the areas of interest to us was the Post Amnesty programme.
You would remember that before we went to Uyo the Governors of the South-South declared in Asaba that they would not support the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty programme if they were not put on notice. Everybody hailed them for making that statement and we supported them at Uyo. Unfortunately at the end of our meeting we learnt that the Governors had gone to Abuja and had had meetings with Mr. President and that he had told them of what was going to be done in the Post Amnesty programme.
45-man technical committee
Since then people have been expecting. The boys came out and surrendered their guns voluntarily expecting that something would be done for them. Even the amnesty itself could have failed if the President himself had not taken it as a matter he was going to supervise himself especially by meeting some of the leaders of these boys. Nothing happened thereafter. Since October 4, 2009, we have been asking what projects the Federal Government will execute in the area.
Then we asked for a programme. We wanted to know, in the first place, the attitude of the Federal Government towards the 45 man technical committee which also discussed so much and made recommendations on the amnesty. It appears that the Federal Government took part of their recommendations and did nothing. The whole report was neglected and we heard that the Federal Government was going to issue a white paper and the white paper never came. Then we were told that it is going to be implemented.
So we have been saying that in 2008 or early 2009 the President wanted to hold a summit with Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari as chairman and we opposed it and he decided to set up the 45 man technical committee which was to review all reports of commissions and committees set up by the Federal Government on the Niger Delta starting from the Willinks commission in 1958â€¦yet the report of the technical committee was not implemented, it was not even published and we are still waiting because that report indicates that immediate infrastructure development should be done in the area, medium and long term. So whatever programme the Federal Government has for the people of the Niger Delta is contained in that document. But failure to release it shows that the Federal Government was not being sincere in dealing with the Post Amnesty programme.
Number two, we also said that after the amnesty, the Federal Government should constitute a peace committee for a dialogue between the elders and youths of the area so that we can discuss how we can bring permanent peace to the Niger Delta. That has not been done. It was not enough trying to meet two or three fellows.
Number three, we discovered, because I have been in Abuja for some time and the ex-militants or freedom fighters came and saw me here, that there was no proper plan for them. No proper accommodation for them, allowances were not being paid to them as promised. Two rehabilitation centres were created for them in Delta State and in Rivers State but these were not properly organized and some of the boys have left the camp.
Accommodation for the boys
They have even left the camps in the various States. For instance in Edo State, the boys were quartered in one of the secondary schools but they were asked to leave the school without an alternative arrangement because the school children had to come back to their school. The man in charge of the amnesty programme in Edo State said the order was from above which means that the chairman of the Amnesty Committee did not care to provide adequate accommodation for these boys. So, the whole thing has been in a disorganized state and particularly now that the President has fallen ill, it has fallen on the shoulders of the Acting President to do something.
What should be done?
One, there should be proper rehabilitation for the boys. Proper allowances should be paid to them, and three, the boys should be given proper training and facilities. I hear that the Niger Delta Ministry was to build some skill acquisition centres but these have not been done. Besides, the infrastructure development of the area is paramount. Provide houses for those people whose houses were destroyed during the fratricidal war between the JTF and the people in Gbaramatu. Nothing has been done!
We expected that a Marshall Plan type of action which the Americans introduced to develop Europe would have been introduced in the Niger Delta but nothing like that has been done. It is true that they are talking about railway from Calabar to Warri and then to Lagos, they are talking about coastal roads but all these things have not been done and patience is evaporating.