TWO days after expiration of October 4 amnesty deadline, workers in the nation’s Petroleum industry, under the aegis of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), have thrown their weight behind the clamour by some militants and other concerned Nigerians for government to extend the amnesty offer to Niger Delta militants to lay down their arms and embrace peace,Â warning that it would be a disaster for the country should the amnesty deal fail.
President of NUPENG, Comrade Peter Akpatason, in a chat with Sweet Crude, advised against government reneging of the promise to not only pay the repentant militants stipends and rehabilitate them for them to be fully integrated into normal life, warning that thing to the contrary could force them back into the creeks.
According to him: â€œYou see, when we advocated these kind of amnesty deal some time ago and the then Obasanjo government, took offence and wondered why we could ever suggest a thing like that.Â But today we have some other people in power and after experiencing the ups and downs in the industry and the entire turbulence, they thought it wise to toll the line of amnesty.
We think it is a wise thing that they have done. But we all also want to believe that the government should not of sheer pride say there is no extension of the amnesty deal and as a result of that, escalate the crisis situation and so on and so forth.
But we believe that in the first place, they were magnanimous enoughÂ to grant comprehensive amnesty.Â WeÂ think it will not be out of place for them to also review the situation as it stand s now and also consider an extension suggested by some of those boys (militants). We think the mind of the people is beginning to change.Â At the beginning of the amnesty, it was like most people were not going to accept it.
But today the situation is different. They have come up with conditions that if you give us these and do this and do that, yes we will take it. We think is going to be too bad for the nation if the government decides not to consider that. We know a lot of people might think the government is in charge and as a result of that, you have to prove that you are the one that is in charge. So, don’t listen to those boy, we do not think that is a wise counsel.
We think the government should consider an extension and go for a total peace as you already you have started. Look at the appreciation in the level of production in the oil and gas industry for quite some time now.
A lot of people have being saying that Nigeria isÂ now looking like a failed state because we are not able to meet the security requirement and the productivity requirement and the rest of them.Â But the amnesty has actually improved on that both in terms of security in Niger Delta, in terms of confidence among investors particularly foreign investors and in terms of productivity in the industry.Â So any thing that they could positively do to extend that to optimize the benefit we think it is adviceable that they should go for it.
We will not subscribed to the idea of standing or toeing extreme or a hard line. They have been kind enough to even grant the amnesty in the first place,Â so they should also be kind enough to extend it and workout the actual plans to develop the Niger Delta and other parts of these country.â€
On recent protects by repentant militants especially in Bayelsa state over non-payment of promised stipends, Comrade Akpatason said: â€œThose are the issues we are talking about.Â Right from the beginning, our position has been that amnesty is not an end in itself.Â It is a means to an end.
So, as it now, amnesty has created an enabling environment for peace or for resolution, for development and for every thing. So sustaining that move is very important.Â Now if you reneged on promises that actually encouraged these peopleÂ to opt for amnesty, then you are discouraging them from continuing the option for amnesty and by extension, you are encouraging them to reverse to their previous crude tactics.
If you do that,Â it will be too bad for this country . We think they need to do everything to encourage these boys, to sustain this peace mode. It is actually not responsible thing for any body renege on promises. If those guys have been in the creeks for a very long time and now government is saying come out and live a normal life and be integrated in to the society, there is a need to support that real integration,Â other wise they will come out as destitutes, no homes no clothing, no food and all what not. Somebody who has no good shelter and clothing, is definitely going to be a desperate person and desperate people can not be the kind of people that will help the situation of Niger Delta.Â So, they need to take care of those guys.
Commenting on the allegation that some politicians may have hijacked the amnesty deal in preparation for 2011 elections, he declared: â€œWe are yet to come across evidence to support that argument, but in Nigeria, anything is possible because situation like this has always been hijacked. So we believe that it is also possible in this case.
But we do not have the facts to support that position or that is the situation on ground. We want to be positive and optimistic about this amnesty deal because that appears to be the only solution.Â So we would rather advice that if the government is convinced that some people are trying to politicize it, I think they should take a decisive action because it will not tell well of the government at the end of the day.â€