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Ex-militants abandon guns for training

By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The first batch of the over 20, 000 Niger Delta ex-militants, last weekend, reported to a serene camp in Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and the Chief Executive Officer of the Amnesty Programme, Mr. Timi Alaibe, and his team had divided the ex-militants to several groups of 2,000 in order to effectively conduct the training which is expected to take place within two weeks for each group. 

Activities in the camp started last Saturday with the collection of biometrics, camp kits, briefing on camp activities and expectations at the end of the programme.

Officials have also undertaken general health screening of trainees, as well as, immunization, optometric checks, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); and drug use rehabilitation.

This opens the most critical phase of the Post-Amnesty Programme, focusing on Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDR).

Briefing the media last month on the DDR, Mr. Alaibe said, “Disarmament is the collection, documentation, control and disposal of small arms, ammunition, explosives and light and heavy weapons of combatants and often also of civilian population. Disarmament also includes the development of responsible arms management programmes.

“ Demobilization refers to the formal and controlled discharge of active combatants from armed forces or other armed groups. Demobilization may extend from the processing of individual combatants in temporary centres to the massing of troops in camps designated for purpose (cantonment sites, encampments, assembly areas or barracks). It also encompasses the support package provided to the demobilized, which is called insertion.

“Reintegration is the process by which ex-combatants acquire civilian status and gain sustainable employment and income. It is essentially a social and economic process with an open time-frame, primarily taking place in communities at the local level. Reintegration is part of the general development of a country and a national.”

The training would, therefore, aim to change the mind set of the ex-militants and make them responsible and productive citizens; aid their adjustment to civilian life; instill in them the knowledge of peace process/conflict resolution through dialogue, as well as educate them in non-violent communication, civil education and family responsibility, and motivational talks.

In addition, the programme handlers will include counselling in skills, career guidance (assist ex-militants determine right skills and vocation), religious counselling; promoting healthy living and mentoring, recreational activities, and introduction to micro-credit schemes.

Benefits of transformation training
It is expected that transformed persons won’t back to violence, emergence of new role models,; overwhelming enthusiasm amongst restive youths in the region to experience transformation, well known ‘Commanders’ of various militant organisations transformed, military bases of militant organizations never the same again because of the infiltration of those transformed; the transformed are helpful in the fight against violence and disruptive activities; and even turn round to protect national facilities.

Upon completion of the two-week transformational training, a battery of experts and resource persons would have prepared participants (ex-militants) to move into community and larger society. Under the programme that has been designed, sufficiently rehabilitated and transformed ex-militants would be deployed to various training centers, educational facilities and possible placements in employment opportunities.

Indeed, local and oversees training and skill acquisition opportunities have been identified and discussions are in progress to conclude arrangement with these institutions that have competence to deliver requisite specialised training for the ex-militants.

In order to achieve maximum effects, the training strategy that has been adopted is such that personal attention will be given trainees as adequate number of resource persons have been mobilized.  Besides, already transformed militants will be co-opted as facilitators who are expected to make reasopnable presentations, as well as the use of documentaries; and group activities.

Facilities in Obubra Camp
Originally  used by the NYSC, the Obruba Camp has been renovated and expanded to make the ex-militants comfortable.

Officials handling the training said facilities in the camp include 13 lecture halls; 1 Multipurpose hall. All the hostels have been massively renovated and ready; fans and electric bulbs provided fall all halls and hostels; existing beds refurbished for the hostels; 48 internal toilets; 58 external toilets; 138 external bathrooms; 48 internal bathrooms; borehole equipped with water treatment plant; a fully equipped clinic.  Construction work on Resource Centre almost completed; and fencing of the entire camp nearing completion.

Amnesty Deliverables
Community ownership of petroleum assets in Nigeria, according to him includes government’s divestment of some of its equities (via NNPC) in respective Joint Ventures. In order to retain 41% equity position in the JVs, government will release 14% in SPDC JV and 19% in other JVs respectively.

Equities given up by government to be re-assigned are as follows: 10% to the host communities; 9% to the generality of Nigerians who are willing to invest in the IJVs.

He said that no single individual will acquire more than 0.1% of the shares of each IJV on the stock market, while the government will provide guarantees to back the oil communities to fund their assigned 10% equity.

On infrastructure, the  East-West Road construction has since commenced and a Coastal Road has been planned.  Similarly, and East-West Railway – standard gauge single trunk (budget: $4 billion) is to be built ; Phase 1: Calabar – Uyo-PH-Yenagoa – Warri-Benin ;      Phase 2: Benin-Lagos ; Inland waterways transportation infrastructure ; Land reclamation.

New towns development have also been mapped out, while identification of polluted sites have commenced for environmental clean-up.

At the national level, the amnesty programme is indeed a win-win programme as it is expected that peace in the Niger Delta would increase oil output, as well as, a steady supply of gas to the nation’s electricity plants which depend on gas.  The outcome would be increased power supply which would positively impact on various sectors of the economy.

The late President Umaru Yar’Adua had on June 25, last year taken an unprecedented step towards addressing the Niger Delta question by granting amnesty to all militants in the region.  The militants  had taken up arms in the pursuit of their struggle for a better share of the nation’s oil wealth, in order to make life more meaningful for the people in that region.

The region produces about 70 per cent of the national wealth, yet the majority of the people in the area had for several decades, basically lived in abject poverty, deprivation and hopelessness.

Nigeria currently stands as world’s 7th largest exporter of crude oil with a proven reserves of about 40 billion barrels; and gas reserve of about 187 trillion cft.


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