BY EMMA UJAH, ABUJA BUREAU CHIEF
ABUJA— The Special Adviser, S.A., to the President on Niger Delta and Chief Executive Officer of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Kungsley Kuku, yesterday revealed that the programme had a lifespan of five years and would, therefore, end in 2015.
Briefing newsmen Kuku said: ”the implementation of the amnesty became effective in 2010 and so we are looking at 2010 to 2015. This is the planned duration”.
While speaking on the Presidential Amnesty Programme in President Goodluck Jonathan’s 100 days in office, he said a total of 19, 576 ex-combatants have passed through the non-violence training at the Obubra Camp, Cross River State.
The breakdown of the ex-militants who have been trained at Obubra Camp showed that Rivers State had the highest number of 7, 015; followed by Bayelsa 6, 793; and Delta 3, 320. Others were: Ondo 1, 303; Edo 459, Imo 326, Akwa Ibom 188; and Cross River 172.
In all, 26, 358 ex-militants from across the Niger Delta are participating in the programme after the Presidential Amnesty Proclamation by late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2009.
The S.A said that the non-violence training of the over 20, 000 ex-combatants who constitute the first phase would be concluded before the end of this month.
Hon. Kuku said that the amnesty programme has been a huge success having restores peace in the Niger Delta, resulting in a stable oil production which has raised output from a mere 700, 000 at the peak of the crisis in 2008/2009 to a current level of 2.5 million bpd.
“Amnesty has been a blessing more than any other programme of government in solving a critical problem like the Niger Delta problem. The amnesty prgramme is sacrosanct and with the kind of successes we have achieved,” he said.
In all, 3,482 Amnesty Programme’s beneficiaries are in 77 training centres within the country. The offshore placement quota thus far is as follows: South Africa, 933; Malaysia, 172; Russia, 64; Benin Republic, 42; Ghana, 197; Israel, 22; Sri Lanka 34; United State of America, 56; India 65; Poland, 21 and the Philippines 129
Answering a question on how much the programme has cost the nation so far and future budgets, he said that being a Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration programme, it was difficult to put figures to it being elastic in nature.
His words, “talking about financials, the amnesty programme being a DR programme, all over the world is an elastic programme. It terms of financials, you can never determine what it would cost you to appropriately train a human being”.
Hon Kuku also alleged complicity of security agents in the region in the on-going clamour by more youths to be included in the programme which he insisted has long closed to new entrants.
He spoke extensively on the need for the security agents in the region to mop up all illegal arms in the area and to also stop giving false assurances of inclusion in the programme to those who surrender arms.
His words, “What I am telling you is that from all inferences, it must be clearly noted here that there was a proclamation of amnesty with a deadline. Proclamation was made June 12, 2009 and by midnight, October 4, 2009, a deadline was reached and 20, 192 persons came out in respect of the hand of fellowship and peace stretched by the federal government.
“Additional 6, 156 by proper consideration, having accepted before the time, in October 2010 were included in the this programme. And the amnesty programme has a disarmament closure with the destruction of arms.
“What that legally means is that any arms beyond that time, collected from anybody should be treated as crime arms.
“But beyond that period, we began to see documents coming from the JTF, we see papers coming from security agencies on arms and ammunitions in the Niger Delta, forwarded to the Amnesty Office and I do reply them that the official position of government is that amnesty was proclaimed and it was terminal. It has ended. The JTF and all security agencies in the Niger Delta should understand this and I know they do.
“That is why I am alleging complicity. They can come out tomorrow and deny it but that is the truth that it is part of their mandate in ensuring peace, law and order in the region; to mop up arms in the Niger Delta. So if anybody comes out to submit any arm, it should be treated as arms mopping; it should be treated as mopping up illegal arms in the region.
“It is not the responsibility of the JTF to receive arms beyond the proclamation, document people and send their names to the Amnesty Office, with recommendations of possible inclusion in the amnesty programme. This is where we are having problems. Security agencies must not leave arms in the hands of persons who illegally bear arms. But when they so collect those arms they must be treated as illegal arms and the exercise must be seen within the confines of the mandate of the JTF and other security agencies in the region as mopping up illegal arms”.
Hon. Kuku admitted however, that the clamour for empowerment by the youths in the region was legitimate and should be addressed by their state and local governments.
He urged oil companies to provide employment opportunities for ex-combatants who have been trained and or who have improved their education through the amnesty programme.
Hon. Kuku was confident that the ex-combatants would change the economic equation in the region at the end of their training but said that they should take their employment as automatic as they would have to compete with other job seekers in the region.