By Emma Amaize, Davies Iheamnachor and Perez Brisibe
PORT HARCOURT – There was outrage in Niger-Delta, weekend, over leaked information that the Committee set up by the Federal Government to appraise the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, for ex-agitators in the region had supposedly recommended that the programme be terminated this year.
Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the mouthpiece of the people of the coastal states of Niger-Delta region, other stakeholders, including agitators, across the region, kicked against the plot, warning that ending the programme abruptly was like declaring mayhem in the oil region.
Don’t scrap PAP – Chief Sara-Igbe, PANDEF BOT member
National Coordinator of South-South Elders, and Board Member of the Pan-Niger Delta Elders Forum, PANDEF, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, said the purported recommendation was not in the interest of the nation.
Sara-Igbe urged the Federal Government not to implement the report of the committee, accusing the office of the National Security Advise of failing to do justice to the programme.
He said: “This rumour has been on that the government wants to scrap the amnesty programme. I think it is the worst recommendation ever that anyone should give now to the government especially now that we are facing challenges of Covid-19 and economic issues.”
“The programme has stabilised the region and should not just be called off if the government want to peace to be sustained. If the end it this way what it means is that people may have to go back to work.
“The National Security Adviser, NSA, has not supervised the programme properly. We think it should be transferred to the office of the President for it to be properly supervised.
“Many people are still in training and many have not even gone for training. Some have not been paid for months, so ending it means you will have abandoned people.”
It will cause turbulence – Chief Oyibode, PANDEF youth leader
National Youth Leader of PANDEF, Chief Vincent Oyibode, told Vanguard: “I call on the Federal Government not to consider the plan if any committee, cabal or person recommended the evil plan to it.
“What the government should do is to refocus the Presidential Amnesty Programme and appoint trusted and upright Niger Deltan to administer the programme.
“To end it now, that is suicidal, it will cause unrest in the region and all youths of the region must stand to defend their right. This is nepotism taken too high.
“I call on all ethnic youth leadership of the region, particularly the agitators to come out to defend what is ours. We are tired of the husband and wife relationship called Nigeria. The leaders of Niger Delta should all wake up.
“Governors of Niger Delta states should go and see Mr. President immediately to know what he is really doing with PAP. I do not know if he is unaware that some cabal that are enemies of the region, within and outside are plotting this devilish plan.
“The National Security Adviser, NSA, office should remove its eyes from the Amnesty Office, the office should be moved to the office of President directly, “Oyibode said.
It’ll complicate N’Delta crisis – Dr Harry, S’South leader
National President of South-South Chiefs, Elders and Opinion Leaders Forum of Niger Delta,
High Chief (Dr) Omubo Harry, told Vanguard: “This is an attempt to compound the problem we already have in the region. The poverty issues, marginalization, neglect, lack of jobs in the region have not been resolved and they are recommending that the programme ends this year. I think this is a product of bad sense of reason.”
“Why do they want to start violence in the fragile region at this point? Why should they think in this line if they are interested in the peace and development of Niger Delta?
“The purpose for the introduction of the programme has not been achieved so there is no need ending it now. There is not yet change in the living standard on the people.
“If they do this, I fear that youths may return to violence because the purpose of this programme has not been achieved,” he added.
It’s a call to anarchy – Igbifa, IYC president
President of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Mr Peter Igbifa, told Vanguard: “I had warned against it earlier when we heard of it as a rumor, but however, I hope those wishing or recommending that the programme be stopped do not plunge Nigeria into a state of crisis because the people of the Niger Delta will not tolerate this action.”
“Reason for this is because the programme has other parts beyond just payment of stipends. It is a programme with a purpose in the region. Basically speaking, this so- called recommendation is a call to anarchy.
“If the panel has indeed done that without engaging with stakeholders, they should ensure not to mention it at all because we are indeed actually calling for the appointment of a substantive Coordinator and Special Adviser of the Programme, which must be someone from the region,” he said.
NSA can’t be a judge in his case – Udengs, ex-Bayelsa comm
Former Commissioner for Youths and Environment, Bayelsa state, and ex-IYC president, Mr. Udenga Eradiri, accused the National Security Adviser, NSA, whose office supervises the programme of being complicit in the allegations trailing the programme, saying: “The NSA can’t be a judge in his own case.”
Recipe for full-blown crisis – Oweilaemi, ex-IYC president
Former President IYC president, Pereotubo Oweilaemi Esq., asserted: “Stopping the Amnesty Programme at this point in time is a recipe for full-blown anarchy in the oil sector.”
“This Programme is the lullaby that pacifies the restive youths in the Niger Delta. President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government should know that the truce leading to the grant of the Presidential Amnesty to the freedom fighters has not been implemented on the side of the Federal Government.
“The Amnesty Programme is the live wire that still holds the peace in the region.
“If this programme is stopped today, it means the federal government is saying the boys should go back to the creeks. Before the government can think of ending the programme, let it implement the demands of the ex-militants, including that of PANDEF. That is the only justification to end the Amnesty Programme.
“I hope that Buhari government is not trying to unnecessarily stoke the ember of discord in the region. I do not think Nigeria can contend with the consequences of stopping this Programme at this critical time of international economic mettle down because the outcome will be disastrous to our economy,” he stated.
We’re dumbfounded by the plan – 21st CYNDAC
Campaigners under the auspices of the 21st Century Youths of Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience, 21st CYNDAC, in a statement by the leader, self-styled “General” Izon Ebi, told Vanguard: “We received with shock and disbelief the leaked intelligence report by the committee set up by the federal government on PAP recommending the end of the program in 2020.”
“This is so unfortunate and unbelievable taking into cognizance the effort put in by patriotic and honest leaders like the Late President Umaru Musa Yaradua to persuade the Niger Deltans with the amnesty program for honest and holistic approach to the myriad of problems that led the youths to take up arms against the federal government.
“Terminating the amnesty program now without the federal government fulfilling its own part is very risky and has its own consequences. For us, we view it as another decoy to plunge the Niger Delta into another round of crisis again since the merchants of violence are no longer profiting in their venture since there is fragile peace in the Niger Delta.
“The agreement reached with agitators to lay down their arms to accept the offer of Presidential Amnesty which has hitherto outlined terms and conditions to be complied with by both sides, the amnesty program is a well thought out developmental program of the then government of President Umaru Musa Yaradua with different segments.
“The program was phased into three segments which are, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration for the first segment, rehabilitation for the second segment, and Strategic Implementation Work Plan, SIWP, for the third segment. Granted that the first segment has successfully been carried out, however, we are still in the second segment, which is the rehabilitation process.
“Engaging the youths in vocational training or sending people to school as well as the empowerment program are all part of the rehabilitation process.
“There is no time limit as to when the program will be terminated, especially when all the segments have not been executed. The third phase has not been attended to, which is strictly the massive development of the region.
“Therefore, 21st CYNDAC) are not beneficiaries of the program, the current lull and inactivity in the execution of the cause call for grave concern as it is steering youth restiveness in the region.
“The seeming peace of the region is peace of the graveyard. It will be counterproductive if all efforts over the years are allowed to go to waste because of the lethargic and lackadaisical attitude of the government in the administration of the amnesty program.
“It is our prescription that the Amnesty Office be reinvigorated to deliver on its mandate of reintegrating the beneficiaries into the mainstream of society through their various programs.
“We are averse to the amnesty program being run by the transition committee as the said transition committee has never shown will and commitment in the administration of the amnesty program.
“It is a lackadaisical approach to end the amnesty program, which is already steering embers of restiveness in the region.
“The federal government should be proactive not to allow it snowball into another round of crisis that will erode all the gains and efforts made by honest and patriotic leaders because it will not be the analog way of the past, but it will be digital this time around because a lot of hidden agenda has been exposed to the people of the Niger Delta,” he said.
Ending PAP‘ll create avoidable tension – Ozobo, IPDI
Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, in a statement by the national president, Mr Austin Ozobo, told Vanguard: “We are against the recommendation to end the programme in 2020, as it will create avoidable tension in Niger Delta region.
“Such persons given such advice are enemies of Niger Delta and Nigeria at large. The current peace and the uninterrupted supply of crude to the coffers of Nigerian government is as a result of the ongoing presidential amnesty programme.”
“The program cannot stop, for now, it will cause uncontrollable violence in Niger delta. More oil facilities will be attacked. The enduring peace will be chartered.
“The crime rate will sky rock as there is a possibility of many repentance militants returning back to the creek to declare showdown with oil multinationals and government installations.
“It should be noted that the ex-agitators has no other means of livelihood, they largely depend on the N65,000 naira stipend for survival.
“And stopping the program means pushing these large number defendants to go and start all over again. And you know to start over is always difficult.
“The government should jettison from this ill-fated advice. You know that lots of persons have not been trained.
“The remaining months of the year will not be enough to train the remaining militants expecting a call for training.
“Another thing is that there is no possibility that thousands of ex-agitators, who are in school and various training centres will graduate completely from school for the remaining months of the year.
“Thousands of those trained have not been given starter packs and others graduated may face discrimination in the labour market.
“While some are not qualified for the labour market due to the poor training offered in some training centres, it is our candid advice that the program should be extended for some further years for peace and uninterrupted supply of the national cake,” the group cautioned.