By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger-Delta, Sam Oyadongha (Yenagoa), Emma Arubi (Warri), Jimitota Onoyume (Port-Harcourt) & Festus Ahon (Ughelli)
FOR today and tomorrow, Vanguard will set the pace once again in the Niger-Delta with a conference on the post-amnesty programme of the Federal Government. It is scheduled to hold in the oil-city of Warri, Delta State.
What is imperative now is how to ensure that the programme does not collapse given some tell-tale signals.Â It is against this background that Vanguard is holding the post-amnesty dialogue, designed to â€˜Restore Hope in Niger-Deltaâ€™ at Warri. We spoke to some stakeholders on the jaw-jaw.
Dialouge is a welcome one â€“ Barrister Mitee
Chairman of the Niger-Delta Technical Committee, NDTC, and leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, Barrister Ledum Mitee, in an interview with Vanguard said: â€œThere is every need for such a conference. Indeed every opportunity for dialogue is a welcome one.â€
His words: â€œConsidering the obvious frustrations that have been expressed over the fate and direction of the post- amnesty initiative, there is every reason to critically assess the project and to examine whether amnesty by itself is a recipe for the much needed peace in the Niger Delta.â€
Broaden the scope â€“ Jemide
Itsekiri leader and member of the NTDC, Chief Isaac Jemide, in a chat with Vanguard stated, â€œI think the idea is not a bad one because we recommended for amnesty. It is a good thing to bring these people out to drive away their fears. What they did in true interpretation is bad and it could drive them to hiding. Draw them out and say, ‘come on, we know what you did was bad, but we forgive you.’
â€œWhat Vanguard is doing is not wrong but they should broaden it and let people understand and hear from people. This country belongs to the people. Go to the various states and pick some people and allow government to sponsor the programme. This way they can still keep their sovereignty. As usual the media have subjected themselves to governors and everything that has to be done has to be packages of governors. Who else is involved? The governors own the state and they even own me. You seem to forget that these governors came into the background just yesterday. Their experience over and wide is limited. They sit on the seat for two or four years. That does not give you total experience of the world. Look at their ages and look at their political experiences. If you are doing something like this, you have to let the people know.â€
Good idea â€“ Omon-Irabor
National chairman of the Human Rights Defenders Organization of Nigeria, HURDON, Barrister Casely Omon-Irabor, stated: â€œI will say that I am very glad that the publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka, is coming home.
You see, Â it is always good to trace your roots at times to be able to know that most of the things that move this country emanate from this region that is so crisis- ridden. If you look at the most selling newspaper today in Nigeria, like the Vanguard, Guardian and the rest, they are all from the Niger Delta region. Let us look into the music industry; they are from the Niger Delta region. So it is not only anything bad that is associated with it. And for Niger Delta to be able to come home to find out the root cause and solution of the recalcitrant crisis is a welcome idea. And I just hope it is sincerely motivated.
â€œI used the word because in a civilian regime, everybody has a hidden agenda or political agenda. You talk to somebody, you think he is listening to you, but tomorrow, he is doing something else. If a communique is to be issued, let it be the peopleâ€™s communiquÃ©. And since it is Vanguard, that is the paper that really fights for the cause of the people, let it be a people-oriented conference. I know in the days of Abacha when newspapers were closed down, Vanguard stood till today, and that is why most of us rate Sam Amuka and his paper high, and because of the war Vanguard fought to enthrone democracy to the background in any side.
â€œHonestly, if you ask me today, which of the papers is truly independent and foremost newspaper in Nigeria, it is Vanguard. We know occasionally because of problem, reporters and editors may dance to the tune of a political party or government. But these are isolated cases. If you read their editorials, Vanguard is not afraid to say it as it should be. So when Vanguard is organizing a programme on the post-amnesty period, look, I clap hands for them. I doff my hat for Sam Amuka. The issue now is the organizers, the resource persons. Look, do not get carried away. If you go for resource persons that are not peopleâ€“oriented, they will not deliver,â€he asserted.
Itâ€™ll restore public confidence â€”â€˜Generalâ€™ Boyloaf
Ex-militant leader, Victor Ebikabowei Ben, aka ‘General’ Boyloaf said, â€œI think in my opinion, there is serious need for such a conference, especially at a time when people are still a bit skeptical about genuineness of government towards the amnesty programme. Such a dialogue will strengthen and compliment governmentâ€™s mechanism inÂ the amnesty process and restore public confidence that government is serious. It will provide an opportunity for the people to air their views and contribute positively to the entire process. For me, I will encourage and support the conference.â€
It is absolutely necessary â€“Â Mudiga-Odje
Leader of the Niger-Delta Democratic Union and constitutional lawyer, Dr. Akpo Mudiaga-Odje, also said, â€œThe post-amnesty dialogue by Vanguard in Warri is absolutely necessaryâ€.
â€œFrom the reactions you received from your questions and inquisition at the moment, you can see that we need an independent body like Vanguard to explore the possibility of ventilating and pontificating on these issues with the view of pointing out the defects of the post amnesty programme. It is not only necessary but timely, and an initiative that must be commended coming from the media.
Dialogueâ€™s long over dueâ€” Engr. Igbini
Gubernatorial candidate of the Peopleâ€™s Redemption Party, PRP, in the 2007 gubernatorial election in Delta state, Engineer Emmanuel Igbini, asserted, â€œOf course, dialogue like this is a right decision and long over due. It should have come as soon as President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua came up with the suggestion of his amnesty package for ex-militants, rather than everyone forced to accept and swallow it, hook line and sinker.â€
Igbini, however, said his acceptance of the dialogue by Vanguard does not mean that his rejection of the amnesty package has changed. His words, â€œMy rejection of the whole package has not changed because I knew it was fraudulent and meant to cover up theÂ atrocities and acts of petro-terrorism of the federal, regional, state and local governments, oil companies and some politicians and their cronies committed against my beloved people and region for over 50 years now and still ongoing. I knew it was going to be hijacked and used as an armed political group by some dubious, unpatriotic rich Nigerians, some 419ers who now claim to be Niger-Delta human rights activists and incumbent governors of the region realize their selfish political and economic ambitions. Today, the recent accusations and counter-accusations from Governor Timipre Sylva and the honorary special adviser to the President on Niger-Delta, Chief Timi Alaibe confirms this.â€
Itâ€™s commendable â€“ Abdul Oroh
Activist and presently, Commissioner for Information, Edo state, Mr. Abdul Oroh in a chat said:Â â€œI think it is absolutely necessary and commendable. In any conflict situation it is always necessary to review the peace process and address matters arising from the prevailing situation.
â€œI think the fact that the original agenda to retrain and rehabilitate the militants has not been achieved makes it imperative that such a dialogue should be held,â€ he added
The people are behind Vanguard â€“ Comrade Bebenimibo
Former secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, in the Western zone, Comrade Paul Bebenimibo, asserted, “Yes, there is need for a conference on the Federal Government Â post-amnesty programme by Vanguard newspaper because the media is known for its role in a programme like this. The media plays advocacy as well as agenda setting role. The media can come out with a programme that will be acceptable to the Federal Government and good for the people, and so there is need for the post-amnesty dialogue in Warri, Delta State.
Itâ€™ll open debate â€“ Bisina
On his part, development activist and facilitator of the Niger-Delta Professionals in Development, NIPRODEV, Mr. Joel Bisina, said, â€œI think there is the need for a conference. Such a conference will engender discussions and debate on the whole amnesty process. It will also help to open the process for public scrutiny
â€œThe Federal Government has turned the implementation of the amnesty program into a secret and clandestine affair, such that civil society groups, both local and international, have been completely shut out from the process. There is lack of accountability in the way the programme is being implemented. The committees claim they have 20,000 militants on their welfare list, while the militants are saying they are not up to that number. It further becomes imperative to have such a conference because of the lack of focus and direction with which the amnesty program is being implemented,â€ he stated.
Thereâ€™s need for dialogue â€”Comrade Newuwumi
Member of the Delta Waterways Security Committee and chairmanship aspirant in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta state, Comrade Omolubi Newuwumi in an interview said, â€œYes, I think there is the need because of the present day Niger Delta crisis and arms struggle started from Warri here in Delta state and so it is assumed that the people of Warri are well grounded on the issues. They will be able to tell you how the crisis and the agitations started, later snowballed into what is now known as the Niger Delta crisis of today. You all know that it was the happening on the 13th of May that woke up the federal government from slumber to proclaim amnesty for the militants and this happened in Delta state too. Another reason I think there is the need fro such conference to be held in Delta state is that the Delta state government led by Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has been committed to the issue of peace in the state and the region.”
Its necessary â€”Â Ogon
One of the architects of the famous Kaiama Declaration and the founding director, Ijaw Council for Human Rights, Mr. Patterson Ogon, who chaired the committee that was recently inaugurated by Ijaw youth leaders and ex-militants to draw up a more acceptable and workable post-amnesty master plan following the rejection of the document presented by Presidential Amnesty Committee by ex-warlords said,Â “Such a post amnesty dialogue is necessary. The programme is skewed and hijacked by the establishment thus losing the key element, the target group and the rest of the Niger Delta society. Besides, its necessary to brainstorm on what other plans the government has in place for victims (persons/communities) of the violence while it lasted.”