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Why Vanguard’s Post Amnesty Dialogue is important, by Mariere

By Festus Ahon
Mr Sam Mariere is a legal practitioner and a staunch member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State. In this interview , he spoke on the forthcoming Post Amnesty Dialogue to be hosted by the Vanguard. Excerpts:

Vanguard is planning to host a Post Amnesty Dialogue.  Do you think it is necessary to organize such a conference ?

Of course, it is necessary that such a conference be held, because the most important thing is not doing a thing but making that thing work. Moreover, the only way to make a thing of this nature work is actually to dialogue and discuss continuously so that we can get the shortfall and how to keep the Post Amnesty Programme going otherwise everything about amnesty and post amnesty will die and the result may be unpleasant.

Looking at the way things are going, do you think the Post Amnesty programme is working?

Repentant militants surrendering their arms

I can say largely that it is working and it is not working.  It is working because we have seen a reduction in the number of violence. It is not also working because we have not seen any systematic, scientific, and well-organized approach to ascertain the cause of the agitation that led to the Amnesty Programme. And this is a situation where you are taking people who are already used to money in the name of post amnesty programme without visible arrangement for their welfare.

You can see the increase in kidnapping in Benin, armed robbery everywhere. It is a question of just solving militancy in the waterway and increasing other forms of crime in the upland. So from that angle it is not working, because nothing concrete has actually been achieved because they have not sent anybody to school and they are not getting any form of training.

In clear term what would you say is wrong and what do you think could be done to salvage the situation?

That is why I said it needs continuous dialogue and planning and the only way you can get this kind of thing is to do what Vanguard is presently planning to hold on the 15th and 16th of this month.  I want to commend Vanguard for it. Conference of this nature I tell could help to find a solution to the Niger Delta problem. We must look at the problem of unemployment in the region and until we do that, the problem of the Niger Delta will not remain unsolved.

We must also strive to look into problem of under development of the place, because if these things are not done then the amnesty will definitely fail. Because if these boys are jobless or they are under unemployed on the long run they will find employment for themselves and they will resort to criminality, which was the last phase of the struggle before the amnesty  programme came up.

In organizing this dialogue what  do you think should be some of the agenda that Vanguard should list for the conference?

The first agenda should be what those problems that led to the agitation are; let us really get to the root of it.  That is the first thing that should be on the agenda.  Then second how do we create employment for the unemployed youths.  Some of those persons that are involved how do we incorporate them into the society, how can they become useful, how can they have enough jobs.  These are basic things that the conference should look at and then the development of the area.

At the end of the conference, what do you think should be done with the resolutions?

Well of course, you know the problem; Nigeria’s problem is not being able to hold conference and coming out with resolutions.  Some people will argue that we have had too many resolutions, too many conferences and nothing came out of it.  That it will be another jamboree, that will be the argument of some people, but we should not  be tired of talking because that is what I have learnt with time, because if you keep talking, the possibility of violence will be reduced.

But when you don’t talk at all, it becomes a problem. The resolution itself should be built into the policies and programme of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC of the Federal Government.  The resolution should not be thrown to the dustbin. It should be built into better policies of the various agencies, the federal government, the various state governments in the Niger Delta, the Niger Delta Ministry, the Ministry of Works, because  the things that the federal Government should ordinarily do should not be left with the states in the Niger Delta.  For example, they are talking of the East-West road. the East West road is a Federal Government project under the Ministry of Works.  I learnt that recently, it was pushed to the Ministry of Niger Delta.

Does that mean if they are constructing Expressway in Kaduna or Lagos , will they push it to the Niger Delta ministry? These are some of the issues that should be looked into.

To some people what is regarded as the modern day Niger Delta struggle took off from the Ijaw and Itsekiri crisis. Do you think the solution can be found in Warri?

Of course! You know something must start from somewhere.  The Niger Delta struggle cannot be rightly said to have started from the Ijaw and Itsekiri crisis, that will not be very correct, because the Niger Delta struggle started from the times of people like Isaac Boro. Then there was no crisis in Warri. The Urhobos and Itsekiri, had crisis from the time of Mukoro Mowoe and Numa before you talk of this modern time, the Okumagbas and the rest of it.

So, I don’t think it is the Ijaw / Itsekiri crisis that is the genesis of the Niger Delta struggle.  Isaac Boro had his struggle before you talk of late Ken Saro Wiwa who also came up before the current one.  We talked of the Kayama declaration before the Warri crisis started. Obviously, the Warri crisis brought a new dimension to it because it brought the question of sophistication in arms.  The Itsekiris were armed, the Ijaws were armed with sophisticated weapons, the GPMT, the Ak 47, the rocket propelled grenade and the rest came in during the Ijaw / Itsekiri crisis, but that is not to say the struggle started from there.

And that is another mistake and pitfall for the Niger Delta struggle.  Niger Delta struggle should not be limited as if it is an Itsekiri or Ijaw struggle.  You have a lot of oil in Urhobo land.  Almost all the 23 clans in Urhobo land have oil and oil was being explored in Urhobo land before oil was found in the riverine area.  The fact that you see  the Urhobos, the Isokos, people from the Kwale, Akwa Ibo areas were you have oil are not agitating, does not mean that they don’t have militant youths.

There are militant youths there and if it is not handled in such a way that all the youths from these areas are built into it, you will see an explosion tomorrow. Because they will now think that it is, only those who can carry arms and make trouble that are being listened to and it will become another cycle of problem.

So that is what we need this conference to point out to the extent that the post amnesty programme should not be limited to the Ijaws.  It should go round.  If it gets to the point that it is onl
y the violent youths that are being listened to it will get to a point when others will start picking up arms against the Nigerian State .


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