By Barr Mary Oyibocha-Agbajoh
The Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) in collaboration with Port Harcourt Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture and the Rivers State Ministry of Commerce and Industry held a three-day entrepreneurial fair for former Niger Delta ex-agitators, who underwent various skills acquisition schemes.
The event, which was held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State saw former militants who had gone into the trades of fashion and design, fishery, and other vocations, displaying their wares after being empowered by the Amnesty office.
No fewer than fifty youths from the oil rich region who benefitted from the programme showcased the stuff they were made of during the fair.
This was the first time since the inception of the Amnesty Programme where delegates were made to demonstrate and showcase the skills they acquired from training under the programme.
Kudos to the Coordinator Of Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Prof. Charles Dokubo whose appointment as the PAP Cordinator had enhanced the performance of the Agency in term of training and reintegration of ex- Niger Delta agitators.
Speaking at the event, Dokubo explained that the empowerment of the Niger Delta youths and engaging them in Small and Medium-scale Enterprises had changed the mentality of Niger Delta youths, adding that the ex-agitators now have the mindset of hard work and creativity as road to success.
He reiterated that Amnesty was not a process of buying peace and encouraging war, but a way of providing security to human beings and the state. He equally pointed out that the stage of the programme was about training and empowering the people of Niger Delta to be self sufficient hence “amnesty is a vehicle to move Niger Delta forward”. The relative peace and tranquility observed in the Region today which has led to increase of oil production and boosting of Nigeria economy was as a result of this positive engagement of the youths through the Amnesty programme
Elated Dokubo expressed satisfaction that most Niger Delta youths who were in the habit of agitating have become successful entrepreneurs after being empowered. He disclosed that the fair would help to improve the business of the trainees by providing links for business expansion.
According to him, “On my resumption at the Presidential Amnesty Programme, I felt it is vital to improve on the empowerment project of the office by initiating the need to showcase the young entrepreneurs of the Presidential Amnesty Programme through this fair.
“The expectation of this entrepreneurial fair is to showcase goods and services achieved in the private sector through the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises of the PAP delegates.”
Prof Dokubo revealed how the Office has enabled him appreciate both the theory and practical of what the Amnesty programme truly is, adding that the programme has done so much for the region.
He urged the youths to forget about violence and create a conflict free environment to make the Niger Delta a hub of scientific innovations, booming businesses and foreign investments.
He argued that “the Niger Delta Youths are not lazy, all they need is the opportunity to develop and this is what Amnesty is providing for them. It is not about 65,000 monthly stipends. The Amnesty programme had enhanced human development and turned the region into bedrock of investors.
The boys are not only self sufficient, they are also training other people to become self sufficient. When I look back to see how lives are being transformed, I feel elated. As for me, the programme is not only about training, but it equally involves supporting and monitoring their progress
In his remarks, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, reiterated that the peaceful nature of the state which came about as a result of the Amnesty Programme has continued to attract events to the state.
Wike applauded Dokubo for a job well done, just as he appealed to the participants to make good use of what they have benefitted from the programme.
Represented by his Special Adviser on Amnesty Programme, Mr Ken Chinda, the governor said, “last week, we hosted NAFEST, the University Games are currently here and the Amnesty Entrepreneurial Fair is here.These are indications that Rivers State is peaceful.
“We want everybody to forget the negative narrative about the Niger Delta. It is unhealthy for people to brand us names. The youths of the Niger Delta are creative and industrious. Our youths are not lazy”.
Earlier, one of the beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme, Mr Gabriel Amadi, from Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, called on his colleagues to make good use of the opportunity given to them by the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
“Don’t sell your start-up packs and if you are doing your job well, you will earn more than N65,000 every month,” Amadi said.
Chairman House Committee on Commerce and Industry, Hon Enemi George said the future does not belong to those who sit in their corners and do not take steps to create wealth in the society.
He told the participants that wealth creation is not as easy as it sounds, adding that it requires hard working and dedication.
He commended participants and those who added to the success of the programme, promising that the House of Assembly would partner with PAP to ensure the success of the program through mutual beneficial collaboration.
“We can make this bigger, we must continue to tell a story of the Niger Delta in ways it has never been,” he advised.
Barr Mary Oyibocha-Agbajoh, a Social Commentaor and Political Strategist writes from Abuja