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Amnesty: Hard Questions

THE choice of Major-General Godwin Abbe as the latest Minister of Defence, had a lot with the expectations of the President that a former military administrator, who is also an indigene of the Niger Delta,  and other indigenes of the area in government, would work for the benefit of the region.

They are also good cover, when government wants nothing done in the region.

General Abbe’s understanding of the interests of the Niger Delta was portrayed in his earlier belligerent utterances. He seemed disappointed that the current truce in the region did not come through another war.

Leaders of the region who met again with government officials on Tuesday are getting frustrated with the promises. Bureaucracy that stretches longer than the River Niger is affecting the region.

“We are tired of attending these meetings. The way and manner we have been attending meetings, I am aware that from 2007 till date, we have exhausted whatever is needed to be said and we are beginning to wonder why we accepted having this meeting,” said Dr. Chris Ekiyor, President of the Ijaw Youth Council.

“Thirty days after our people surrendered our arms we have not seen any progress. We are tired of having these meetings. Today you call this group, tomorrow you call another group and nothing is being said.”

Government came with the same promises, a N200 billion construction fund  for major roads across the oil producing States, and rail projects. The Federal Government knows N200 billion cannot do much with the peculiar construction challenges of the region.

If the leaders of the region are more impatient it is because they have realised that the amnesty programme was not the development programme of their dreams.

From the beginning, government’s enduring interest in the region was about unfettered oil exploration, nothing else.

Peoples of the Niger Delta were important since their temperament was crucial to profitable oil and gas exploration.  Their agitation for cessation of the despoliation of their environment, and the quest for an equitable investment of proceeds of their resources in the region did not sit well with the authorities, used to years of  not accounting to anyone.

It was a joke for General Abbe to remind leaders of the region that university admissions came with stringent conditions that ex-militants who desired higher education must meet. They also have to wait until next year, as admissions were over.

Again, these show amnesty was for the benefit of the authorities alone. It was definitely a much sought after respite to garner resources to run governments.

Chief Ufot Ekaette, Minister of the Niger Delta continued the joke. He was proud of a job fair the Ministry held in Abuja. How many job seekers from the Niger Delta attended?

Too many words and too few works have become the hallmark of government actions on the Niger Delta. The people may not have too much patience for more words. Government can still prove its seriousness with the amnesty.


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