Bearing in mind the volatile nature of the Niger Delta region, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has started toeing a new path to address the myriad of problems there.
To enable the Amnesty Programme achieve its set goals and objectives, which include rehabilitating ex-militants and integrating them into the society, the administration has departed from the old and malfunctioned ways.
Prior to President Buhari’s assumption of office, the handling of the Programme was in a staccato form, and largely driven on rent-seeking. The programme was used to indulge some individuals and groups without proper structures that will enable the intended participants maximally benefit from it. Under President Buhari, the Amnesty office under Brigadier-General Paul Boroh is redrawing the map to make the programme more result-oriented.
For example, while under the previous arrangement, ex-agitators were made to receive N65,000 as monthly allowance, without providing for an exit plan. But this administration has structured it in a way that participants exit in phases, and with assured job offer. This way, the programme will make meaningful impact on the participants and the society in general.
There is need to reiterate the fact that ab-initio the programme had a terminal date, and so far, the 30,000 ex-agitators already in the programme are being well catered for.
Furthermore, the Amnesty Programme under Brig-Gen Paul Boroh has in a bid to make it more coordinated, opened offices in all Nigerian embassies and missions abroad. This has made it possible for those studying abroad to have channels of communication, rather than resorting to street demonstrations whenever they have issues with their school fees, feeding or associated needs.
This approach will in no small measure ameliorate the problems being experienced by the ex-agitators training abroad, as well as save Nigeria the constant embarrassment and nuisance which such public demonstrations pose to our country.
Already about 60 percent of ex-agitators in various universities and other higher institutions have graduated and by December 2017, all of them would have graduated. As earlier pointed out, the programme is drawing to an end, and from all indications, the Buhari administration may likely review or extend it. If they graciously do this, then a window of opportunity would have opened for more Niger Delta youths who have been struggling to be offered a space in the programme.
Lest we forget, the programme was started under the administration of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, on August 6, 2009, as a means of restoring calm and peace to the restive Niger Delta area.
As lofty as the plan was, the tardiness in its implementation led to complaints from certain quarters that the Buhari administration has abandoned it. But in realisation of the key role the programme can play in stabilising the Niger Delta, which ultimately will lead to development, the Buhari administration is presently partnering with some international agencies and countries such as UK, EU, UNDP, World Bank, Japan and others.
Taking into consideration the strategic importance of the Amnesty Programme, President Buhari had within two months of being sworn into office appointed a Presidential Adviser in the person of Brig-Gen Paul Boroh. Similarly, the new administration was able to resume payment of allowances to ex-militants, as well as settled the outstanding payments for overseas students under the programme.
It is on record that 103 of the students have already graduated with honours from 17 universities in the UK alone. Many of them have also graduated from universities at home, including 200 of them who recently graduated from Benson Idahosa University, Benin City.
The historical trajectory I have toed is aimed at putting on record the total commitment of President Buhari in ensuring that the Amnesty Programme is successful, and to the greater benefit of the people of Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole.
All things being equal, it is expected that by December 2017, the programme would have run its full course with the graduation of ex-agitators from various universities.
It is in the interest of all stakeholders, especially the youths of the region to join hands with the Buhari administration in seeing to the successful implementation of the Amnesty Programme and over-all development of the region.
It is important to point out that President Muhammadu Buhari is a well-meaning leader, and for him to succeed in delivering the democracy dividends to all Nigerians, there is need for all and sundry to give him maximum support and cooperation.
But beyond government efforts, international oil companies, states and local governments ought to play their role in bringing development to the region. For example, there is no justification for oil companies to continue to work and live in opulence, while neglecting the oil-bearing communities. It is only reasonable that basic amenities such as water, electricity, food, roads, schools and hospitals should be provided. Definitely this approach will boost the relationship between the oil companies and their host communities.
The state and local governments on their part can contribute to peace and amity in the region by applying resources to critical areas of need for the people. A situation where the people of the oil-bearing communities are denied basic amenities by their local and state governments is unacceptable.
Already, the Federal government is using different interventionist programmes to uplift the lives of the people of Niger Delta and other stakeholders must contribute their quota for a meaningful impact to be achieved.
Mr Chukwudi Enekwechi, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja