MR Allen Onyema, founder and national chairman, Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN), has been preaching the message of non-violence and peaceful co-existence in Nigeria. Onyema, who handles the transformational training of the Presidential Amnesty programmes for Niger Delta ex-militants, in this interview spoke on the amnesty programme, spate of bombings in the Northern part of Nigeria why more revenue should be allocated to the oil-bearing areas of the country. Excerpts:
Some Niger Delta youths recently took to the streets protesting their non-inclusion in the amnesty programme. Does this mean that the amnesty programme is unsuccessful?
Their agitation doesn’t imply failure on the part of the amnesty programme but rather a pointer to the fact that the programme is very successful.
This programme is one of the very few government programmes that have succeeded in the history of Nigeria. From Chief Timi Alaibe to Hon. Kingsley Kuku, it has been a story of absolute commitment to success.
Yes, the youths want to be part of the programme. And who, on earth, would want to identify with failure? No one, of course.
For anyone to associate the desperate clamour of our youths to be included in the programme with failure, amounts to, not only turning logic on its head but also an advertisement of defective reasoning on the person’s part.
The programme’s success is celebrated the world over.
The international community is still dumbfounded as how Nigerians got this right – from disarmament, through demobilization and now re-integration. The indices for measuring success are there.
Before Amnesty, what was the region like? What was the level of crude oil production? Before the programme, production dipped to 700,000 barrels per day but since the programme started, production has risen to over 2.6million barrels per day.
How about the social life? Were people not relocating out of the Niger Delta region? Compare then with today and you would give the highest honours of the land to Chief Timi Alaibe, who laid the foundation for what you are seeing today and Hon. Kingsley Kuku, who has vigorously engendered a revolution in the region using the instrumentality of the amnesty programme.
Success should not be measured with the present production level of crude oil alone. Look at the lives being changed and touched. People who, hitherto, were condemned as useless are today excelling in different fields of endeavour. The programme has produced pilots, technicians and all.
Do states and local governments have the fund to emulate Federal Government’s gesture in providing skills for the youths?
Yes, they do to some extent. They have to play their own role to a level appropriate with their revenue. It must not be exactly the same number being handled by the Federal Government.
The amnesty is dealing with over 26,000 persons and you know that it calls for lots of funding. People just hear the bogus amounts and they feel people there are just squandering the money, they have forgotten that the programme is dealing with a large number of people with different issues and different backgrounds.
Their issues are beyond them, you also manage their families and lots of things about them. We are doing all these so that peace may return to the Niger-Delta region.
The funding is not even enough. Before now the production level was just 700,000 barrel per day after amnesty we now have about three million barrels per day. The entire amnesty fund is three days production, so if the country can sacrifice that to have peace then it is a worthy cause.
There are over 15 million Niger-Delta youths out there, who have been affected by degradation and pollution of their environment and other activities going on in their region.