BY AZU AKANWA
Former spokesman of Ijaw National Congress, INC, and Coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group, IMG, Comrade Joseph Evah in this interview with Vanguard, denied allegations of the presence of a militant camp in Lagos and spoke on issues arising from the Amnesty programme for youths and communities in the Niger Delta. Excerpts:
Many Nigerians are worried that the amnesty programme may have failed following the recent kidnapping of foreigners in Rivers and Bayelsa states by sea pirates?
Well, you rightly said the kidnap was done by sea pirates. Criminal activities take place in every society. The programme is working but we have told the President what is required to make it get to the promise land. The level of the success so far was because someone who was part of the struggle is managing it.
Hon. Kingsley Kuku has done a great job especially his focus on how education should be the best legacy we can use to transform our region and using all hisstrength to pursue it, even going ahead to locate youths that can be trained as licensed pilot.
Recently there was a publication (not in vanguard) where some people alleged that you operate a militant camp with bombs and sophisticated weapons in Lagos, called Brebegha Militant Camp with over 400 armed men?
That is nonsense. I am not a militant leader nor an ex-militant leader. If I am involved in such a thing, people like Gani Adams, Alhaji Yerima Shettima and our leader, Dr. Fredrick Fasheun cannot make me their bosom friend. It is the nonsense paraded by some confused minds.
Recently there was a publication with the headline: “Good times for ex-militants in 2013”, claimed to be quoting me and said, I told the paper that Amnesty is a failure. What made me happy about what the paper wrote was that many people called me to say mischief makers were using your name to sell their paper because it is open secret that all the benefits I used amnesty to achieve over the years I have always publish such benefits in the newspapers as adverts.
I gave out free GCE, JAMB forms for hundreds of students, educational facilities such as schools, construction of buildings hiring extra teachers for various schools, empowerment tools for youths and many more.I remain the only Niger Delta outside government activists that has used the amnesty to do the work of ministry of education, ministry of social development, ministry of labour and productivity and ministry of power. I remain the only Niger Delta outside government activists that has used the amnesty to do the work of ministry of education, ministry of social development, ministry of labour and productivity and ministry of power.
What of the camp called Akodo militant camp at Ibeju Lekki? It is believed that thousands of militants received training there. That you are operating Akodo camp to defend Jonathan in the 2015 election.?
That place is owned by the Amnesty office. It is used to document ex-agitators or ex-militants who want to further their education. It is like the Obubra camp in Cross River State that was given to the amnesty office by the federal government; but that Oburo centre was owned by NYSC. The Brebegha camp you talked about has nothing to do with Lagos.
There is nothing like Brebegha camp with guns and bomb in Lagos. During the amnesty process, some individuals and communities were giving amnesty slots, just like recently, President Jonathan gave amnesty slots to the Itsekiris, Urhobos and others. It is left for them to organise themselves and make sure they use it to help their people.
During the Niger Delta struggle, all the tribes and communities were affected. That is why we are begging the President to approve more phases of the programme for more youths and communities to benefit.
So some people will represent the community or organization and acquire further education. Those who benefit from my communities but are living in Lagos come from all Niger Delta tribes. In one of our communities, we have over 5,000 youths but only 100 persons are representing the community. They will give part of their allowance to the organization or community and the other youths.
It is only Brebegha Amnesty Benefiting Communities that youths had to use their allowance to build staff quarters (Teacher quarters), completed and commissioned at Peretoru in Bayelsa state. Some other things they have done included a school principal’s residence commissioned at Ekogbene; NYSC quarters at Ekogbene, classroom blocks in other communities.
Organizations like the Ijaw Youth Development Association, IYDA, are giving GCE and JAMB forms and youths are assisting Niger Delta widows with funds to buy empowerment tools Niger Delta disabled person’s forum and Niger Delta Blind Students Association as well as Ijaw women leadership forum, Arogbo women groups are also benefiting from the process.
Ekogbene, in Delta State community hired extra eight teachers to improve the primary and secondary school education standard. The community electrification project is kicking off before the end of this month because the engineers completed their assessment last week and these are coming from the allowances of the beneficiaries.
The strategy is that if the few who went to Obura contribute to physical development, it means all the whole community has benefited because the classroom block will serve the whole community. Another community called Enekorogha has almost completed six classroom blocks from foundation.
When the former speaker of Bayelsa House of Assembly, Hon. Debekeme, met me at Government House Yenagoa, recently he took the pain to tell persons around the wonders I have used amnesty to do in Peretoru town. The former Speaker is from Peretoru like me especially the empowerment of youths, staff quarters for teachers and construction of 500 capacity women conference hall with Guest House for commercial purposes.
How did you come up with this model of self help projects?
I was brought up in the South West. I know the secret of their community empowerment methods. Although greedy and selfish youths will resist the move but will be replaced because the slots were given to the community or organization and not to individuals. And individuals were not forced to represent the community or organization. Apart from youths who carry gun and went to war, others represent communities that recognize their roles.
As we speak, IYDA in Lagos is buying saloon dryers, sewing machines, pop corn making machines, laundry machines, ice cream making machines, among other items to empower the female members of the association and other Ijaw ladies in Lagos.
When Kingsley Kuku announced the deduction of the allowance of ex-agitators to raise N52 million to buy relief materials for flood victims, I was first to congratulate him because we have to make our youths to share whatever they have with others and anybody who refuse to cooperate will be sanctioned. Look at the Niger Delta today, we are not moving forward because of the greedy political class we have and if we produce another set of greedy youths, it means we are doomed forever.
What did you tell the president that needs urgent attention?
I told the president that we need jobs for the boys and girls graduating from training centres and that it is not Kingsley Kuku’s job to build industries that required the manpower we are training and I have suggested to the president how we can create industrialized Niger Delta for the present and future generation.
The oil companies can do what they are doing in other countries by using the bye-product of crude oil to produce textile, tyre, chemical and plastic industries and with the Atlantic Ocean by our region, we can go into commercial fishing and we can be the highest exporter of sea food after providing local consumption. If the federal government mandates the oil companies, state governments and federal agencies to sit down with industrialize the nation and foreign firms sign agreement to do this, I tell you the Niger Delta will become an industrialized zone in the world map.