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Amnesty, Yar’Adua’s major legacy

Late President Umaru Yar'Adua (r) welcoming President John Mills of Ghana on arrival for a working visit to the Presidential Villa, Abuja last year. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

By Adekunle Adekoya,  Funmi Komolafe
RHETORIC aside, one notable achievement for which Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua will be remembered is the defusing of tension in the Niger Delta region through the Amnesty programme.

Like Option A-4 which gave us the best election in our history but which we did not profit from, the offer of unconditional amnesty to militants of the Niger Delta fetched a beleaguered nation reprieve from endless bombings and sabotage of critical oil installations as well as abduction of mainly expatriate workers in the nation’s oil industry.

By the time the offer was made, Nigeria’s crude production, about 2.2 million barrels per day, had shrunk to 1.6 mbpd, as a result of increasing shut-ins due to sabotage.

The amnesty programme
The amnesty programme was to enable government buy time through cessation of hostilities by militants, begin real development of the region while at the same time doing social re-engineering by rehabilitating the militants.

However one looked at it, it was a tall order, for the Niger Delta region had suffered decades of neglect both by government and the oil majors, leading to the creation of a geo-political area which had become toxic both to itself and the entire nation.

It is in these parts of Nigeria that high-calibre military ordnance, ranging from pistols, rifles, RPGs to machine guns and explosives has become as commonplace as a pack of cigarettes. In fact, the ordnance possessed by even the smallest militant groups in the Niger-Delta would make the armies of some small nations green with envy.

On the human side, youths who should be in schools and colleges studying to become doctors, lawyers, architects, etc have become “soldiers,” and at tender ages, acquired lethal skills useful to society only in controlled environments such as military institutions.

The environment has been badly hit; oil spills have not been properly cleaned, or not cleaned at all, while gas flares are unending. The sum total is a worsted ecosystem, with much of the flora and fauna of an otherwise rich wetland destroyed in the process.

Thus, entire communities that depend on subsistence fishing and cultivation have had to relocate; very little fish left in the waters, while for the same reason, the soil can no longer return the yield it used to. It was these, and more that the Amnesty Programme was targeted at.

Yar’Adua’s illness
But the President’s illness, which got protracted not long after the amnesty declaration, seemed to have taken a huge toll on the programme’s execution. By November 2009 when Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua vanished from public view, the programme was in dire straits as various attitudes and politicking trailed the programme.

Much of the rehabilitation programme were yet to take off, while the grandstanding of some officials gave little hope. As a result, some of the militant groups, getting cynical about the turn of events, resumed bombings and attacks on oil installations. Even the efforts of well-meaning persons and organizations to help the programme along met with distrust.

The Post-Amnesty Dialogue organized by Vanguard Media was one such, and was rudely aborted by bomb blasts at the Warri venue.

This now is the task before President Goodluck Jonathan: urgent action to reclaim trust in the programme must be taken. President Jonathan must move as fast as he can with the little time left and get really proactive on the Niger-Delta issue.

The time for rhetoric is long gone, and all efforts must be on deck to make the most use of goodwill that the President now enjoys, lest we fail to profit from Amnesty the way we failed to profit from Option A-4.

Yar’ Adua and Labour: Flip, flop policy

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s policy on labour issues can best be described as flip flop.  On a particular issue he was seen as actively in support of labour but on other issues, he maintained a tough stand against labour and what it represents.

The late President met with labour and promised to consult labour on issues.  While his aides claimed the President had no time to listen to labour’s litany of requests, Mr. President overruled and listened to the prepared speech of NLC president, Abudulwaheed Omar.

President Yar’Adua never made any appearance at May Day rallies.

Teachers strike
The six weeks strike of the Nigeria Union of Teachers in 2008  over the implementation of the Teachers Salary Structure, TSS, revealed the other side of Mr. President.  He reportedly  told his aides:  “I will not talk to teachers.”  He stuck to his guns and hundreds of thousands of children in  primary and secondary schools remained idle at home. Mr. President could not be bothered.

The crisis was only resolved when the Governors’ Forum intervened and signed an agreement with the NUT on August 6, 2008.

ASUU strike
In 2009, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, commenced a strike which lasted three months.  Initially, Yar’ Adua’s men got talking to ASUU but later closed any form of negotiation.  While the strike lasted, the President travelled to Saudi Arabia to commission a university.

Though he ignored the NUT he could not ignore the university lecturers indefinitely hence he called on Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole to talk to ASUU to get the dispute resolved. It was resolved but Government stuck to “no work, no pay” ruling of the Industrial Arbitration Panel, IAP.

Disagreement between Government and Labour remained but President Yar’ Adua used every forum to make the point that “there is no going back on deregulation.”

The rallies organized by labour and civil society coalition did not change the President’s stand. He looked frail but  firm on his policy of deregulation.

Mass retrenchment
The late President Yar’ Adua put a halt to the  “downsizing” of civil servants.

Pension Reform – To the President’s credit, his government remained faithfully to the implementation of the contributory pension introduced by his predecessor.

Migrant workers
Yar’Adua’s government failed to secure the safety of migrant workers.  Nigerian and non- Nigerian migrant workers were kidnapped at will in the Niger – Delta region.

Not a few had their children killed or kidnapped before the amnesty deal of the federal government and the militants.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.