March 3, 2020

Amnesty program: Tension brews in N-Delta over plan to nominate northerner

Appoint substantive Amnesty Coordinator, Niger Delta stakeholders urge Buhari

•Stakeholders divided

• Ijaw youths vow to shutdown oil sector

By Jimitota Onoyume, Samuel Oyadongha, Festus Ahon, Gabriel Enogholase, Egufe Yafugborhi, Davies Iheamnachor, Perez Brisibe, Chancel Sunday & Aliu Ozioruwa

Massive protests, yesterday, hit the streets of riverine communities in Delta State over an alleged plan by the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd), to nominate a northerner to chair a caretaker committee for the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP.

The youths, mostly ex-agitators under the amnesty programme, marched from one community to the other in Burutu and Bomadi Local Government Areas of the state, chanting war songs.

One of the protesters, who gave his name as Ebikeme, said they were reliably informed that the NSA was planning to impose his kinsman to chair a caretaker committee for the programme.

“First and foremost, it is a taboo for a non-Niger Deltan to chair that office, we are vehemently against such anomaly. The NSA, if what we are hearing is true, should not escalate the fragile peace in the region.

“We want somebody who knows our pains and struggle from the region to be appointed as coordinator of the programme.  We don’t even want a caretaker committee and that is our stand.”

Meanwhile, stakeholders were divided over allege plan to set up caretaker committee allegedly headed by a Northerner.

While some said the claim should be taken with the pinch of the salt, others warned that it could plunged the region into fresh crisis.

Speaking on the development, Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Bayelsa State, Chief Thompson Okorotie,  said: “I don’t know the reason for the sack of the former cordinator, Prof. Charles Dokubo but the Presidency should always do some  proper screening before they make their appointments. That office is very crucial to the Niger Delta.

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“If they get that one right and we have proper placement of the boys that are trained, it will help speed up the process of peace building.  As Chairman of PANDEF, we have asked the question severally, how many people have the Federal Government trained? What are their areas of study? What is the extent of placement after training them?  You don’t just train them and throw them into the labour market. The subject they chose should be skills directed. We have asked questions and there have been no answers from that office.  Let them look for proper people who are dedicated to the development of Nigeria and and particularly the Niger-Delta.”

Mr. Iniuro Wills, President, Ijaw Professionals Association (Homeland Chapter comprising Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta) submitted: “That’s too preposterous to believe. We have many excellent candidates from the region. I’d rather leave open the benefit of the doubt that a suitable person from the region that can render service superior to what the Amnesty Programme has been notoriously bastardized with will be appointed to reset that scheme and make it deliver some real value before its final sunset.”

Reacting to the development, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, led by Pereotubo Owielaemi youths vow to shutdown oil sector over planned inauguration of committee for PAP.

In a statement, he said: “The plan by the NSA to constitute interim management committee instead of appointing the coordinator for the PAP will be resisted by the Ijaw youths. The NSA should rescind the idea of appointing interim management committee. IYC will not accept it.

“PAP is not a northern affair. The programme is the reason why the oil sector is experiencing peace. President Buhari should advice the NSA to disband that devious committee. We will revolt against it. Niger Delta region will not have peace especially the oil platforms should the FG go-ahead with this so-called committee.

“We will not allow cabals in the government to take away the programme from us. That’s an invitation to anarchy. Definitely, the boys will go back to the creeks. We hope that President Buhari will treat this message as a warning as the consequences of the NSA’s action will be catastrophic to the nation’s mono-economic.”

On his part, National President  Centre for Human Rights and Anti  Corruption Crusade, CHURAC, Mr Alaowei said appointing an interim committee would amount to politicizing the body, adding that  it was a specialized programme targeted at certain persons in the society.

“The rumour that the presidency is mulling plans to set up interim committee to coordinate the affairs of the PAP is totally wrong. The amnesty programme as an interventionist agency should not be treated like the conventional statutory agencies.

“Those who are nursing the ambition to set up interim committee for the programme do not mean well for the peace in the region. To us, the idea is a clear invitation to anarchy. This is typical of President Buhari’s ill-advice in 2016 when he was misled by desperate forces in the government to scrap the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko. We warned him then that his action was a recipe for anarchy. Of course, Nigerians saw what happened next.”

In his reaction, Joe Ambakederemo, Convener, South South Reawakening said: “It will be very wrong to do this if it’s not a fake news. I believed it’s in the realm of speculation by mischief makers because I am in touch with officials of the office of the NSA on the possible composition of the care taker committee of the Amnesty Office. No one should even give this a thought as it will be an anathema to the smooth processes of maintaining peace in the region.

“My position is why even a care taker committee in the first place. Agreed the place is riddled with unmitigated corruption that needs thorough cleansing with a fine tooth comb but we must make bold to say a competent individual should be appointed to salvage the programme and find a pathway to wind up the programme.”

Ijaw youth leader,  Eric Omare, sounded tough saying, “It is unthinkable for anybody in government or outside the Federal Government to even conceive or contemplate appointing northerner as head of the amnesty programme.  It would amount to a direct attack on the people of the Niger Delta region and an invitation to anarchy.

“President Buhari must be careful with bomber ambitious characters who are misleading him on issues affecting the Niger Delta region. The Federal Government must be warned that what they are attempting to do with the amnesty programme is a receipe for crisis in the region.”

Also speaking, Darlington Nwauju, Spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, said, “We think the removal of Dokubo is a welcome development given the series of allegations and petitions concerning the Amnesty Office. You would agree with me that that office needs to be refocused.