DEAR Hon. Reyenieju,
The Amnesty programme benefits all The Presidential Amnesty Programme finds it expedient to write you this open letter in order to correct the impression you created in your Easter message to some Ex-Agitators of the Niger Delta. Please among others, refer to Page 12 of the Wednesday, March 30, 2016 edition of the VANGUARD Newspapers titled “Lawmaker flays selective implementation of Amnesty Programme”
We have to make this response because we think as an elite, a leader of the Itsekiri and a Federal lawmaker, your words carry weight and should ordinarily be fact-based.
Honourable, perhaps if you had bothered to seek information or clarification from the Amnesty Office, your reported reaction might have been different and you probably would have given it little or no ethnic colouration. Please note that the purpose here is not to engage in polemics with you; rather, it is to explain and present facts.
The initial non-inclusion of Itsekiris in Amnesty Programme.
While speaking to some Ex-Agitators during their 2016 Easter visit to you, the Media reported you as claiming that “The process that necessitated the inclusion of Ex-Agitators from the Itsekiri ethnic group was a long and tortuous one and their inclusion was made possible through the intervention of the National Assembly …” You know that this your assertion which gives the impression that the Yar’Adua administration -which proclaimed the Amnesty- deliberately excluded the Itsekiri, has no semblance with the truth.
What you did was to present one side of the story while concealing the other which truly illuminates the truth. The fact is that when in October, 2009 ex-Itsekiri agitators disarmed in Koko, Delta State, they stated categorically that they do not want to be part of the Amnesty Programme. The leader of the Itsekiri National Youth Association (INYA) and then member of the Delta Waterways and Security Committee, Mr. Newuwumi Omolubi, who presented a written speech said the Itsekiris are not militants and that the arms they submitted were merely for the protection of their communities. This he said, is the reason no Itsekiri can be found at any of the militant rehabilitation centres or collecting stipend under the programme. It was for this reason Itsekiris were initially left out of the Programme since the Federal Government could not compel anybody or group to be part of it.
Even when the Second Phase of the Programme was carried out, the Itsekiri youths still remained outside it. It was not until Thursday May 17, 2012, three years into the programme, that based on a petition by the INYA, the House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions held a Public Hearing on the issue. At the Hearing, the then Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Hon Kingsley Kuku told the House Committee that the Amnesty Office was fully in support of the Itsekiri petition to be part of the Programme. He explained that “There were fears among some persons that the Programme was just a ploy designed by the Federal Government and the Oil and Gas multinationals to lure out the Agitators from the creeks and possibly harm them … As we all can now testify, the Programme has become a resounding success and these previously skeptical persons now want to be included.” Subsequently, the Presidency gave the Itsekiris 500 slots under the Third Phase of the Programme.
Itsekiris have benefitted immensely from Amnesty Programme.
Honourable, your claims that the Amnesty Office has been biased and depriving Itsekiri beneficiaries of their entitlements including skills acquisition and University Education are not factual. Given such faulty foundation, your conclusion that “sadly the present handlers of the Amnesty Programme appear to be irredeemably determined to ensure that beneficiaries of Itsekiri extraction do not maximally reap the benefits of the Programme” cannot but also be very faulty.
First, all Itsekiri Amnesty beneficiaries have been paid the same monthly Stipend as other beneficiaries. Secondly, given the facts that the Itsekiris constitute 500 of the 30,000 beneficiaries who came very late into the Programme, they can be said to have benefited a lot from it. Seventy two of them have had, or are on full Amnesty Programme Scholarship which includes Tuition, Accommodation and In- Training- Allowances, in the United Kingdom (UK) and one in the United States.
Out of the 500 Itsekiri who took Amnesty, 65 of them (15 percent) have been sent by the Amnesty Office for Master of Science (M.Sc) Degree programmes in various British universities in fields like Analytical Bioscience/Chemistry, Applied Instrumentation and Control in Oil and Gas, Energy and Environmental Management, Engine Control Systems and Instrumentation, Oil Field and Corrosion Engineering, Risk and Disaster and Welding. Forty eight of them have acquired M.Sc Degrees while 17 are still studying.
Given the high cost of education in the UK, the Amnesty Office as a matter of policy concentrates on First Degree Programmes, and very rarely on Masters programmes. But an exception was made for the Itsekiris and four of them are pursing PhD Programmes on full Amnesty Office Scholarship. All these 73 Itsekiri beneficiaries while being on full Scholarship or having graduated (with some probably working) are still collecting the Monthly Stipend. These are verifiable facts which are available even in the public domain.
I was privileged to lead the Amnesty Office Delegation which met with HRH Omoba Godfrey Ikenwoli Emiko, the Olu of Warri the security situation in the Niger Delta and the Amnesty programme, and we benefited immensely from his wise counsel. We appeal to all to imbibe the spirit of unity he has been championing in the Niger Delta and the country.
Honourable, the Amnesty Office under my watch operates an Open door Policy, so it is open to enquiry from any Nigerian on its activities. We wish you the very best.
Brigadier General Paul Boroh (Rtd), is SA to the President on Niger Delta & Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.