…Asks FG to fulfill N50bn promise to ex-agitators
….As DSS pledges to partner peaceful organisations
By Chris Ochayi
The Niger Delta Nonviolent Agitators Forum, NDNAF, has called on the Federal Government to redeem the N50 billion that was promised to the ex-agitators in order to ensure sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region.
The Chairman of NDNAF, Abuja Chapter, Mr. Embale Jonathan, who made the call when he led the group for a consultative meeting with the Director, Department of State Services, DSS, FCT, Command, expressed concerns over unfulfilled promises of the Federal Government to the Niger Delta region.
Mr. Jonathan who recalled how those promises culminated into the laying down of arms and amnesty., however reiterated that the Forum was in the pursuit of Government’s fulfillment of it promises through dialogue and non-violent approach.
He said that the Federal Government and Niger Delta leaders have a role to play in achieving the development of the region, even as the Forum will continue to demand advocating for redeeming of what belong to the region.
Some of the demands put forward by the chapter include. the construction of the six mega cities that was promised the Niger Delta region, the Ogoni oil spill clean up which has not been carried out, and the economic and infrastructural development of the region
Others include “An end to gas flaring at end of 2020 as agreed. It has been observed that a contract was awarded for the end of gas flaring without due consultation with the stakeholders in the region, the N50bn that was promised to the ex-agitators which the government has reneged.
“Oil exploration/exploitation has been going on in the region for more than fifty years without commensurate benefit to the indigenes of the region and this must stop, pipeline surveillance contracts should be given to ex-agitators and not outsiders to ensure peace in the region.
“The 10% derivation to host communities has not been implemented; the Federal government should no longer use the carrot and stick diplomacy in the region. “
The group was also bitter that “After training the ex-agitators, the next phase of the program has not been implemented,” and that “The oil companies operating in the region should relocate their headquarters from outside back to the region so that the benefit of their presence will be felt and the establishment of Federal Universities in the region.
Mr. Jonathan argued that, “Meeting these demands will greatly reduce the agitation in the region and stem the tide of emergence of new agitators. This invariably will lead to employment opportunities, empowerment, rehabilitation of infrastructure and education in the region.
He further said that the impact of government interventionist agencies is not felt considering the huge sums of money voted to them. Even the Local Governments are not doing enough to make their presence felt.
The chairman also pointed out that the Forum has a social and welfare intervention program in place. The program is designed to empower the people and get jobs for our unemployed and get them off the streets. To achieve these, the Forum relies on charity and goodwill from spirited individuals, organisations and government agencies.
In his response, the representatives of Department of Security Service, DSS, reiterated the commitment of the Service to always partner with all peaceful organisations, adding, “Peace is critical in nation building and the Forum’s name includes ‘Non-Violence’ which implies peace.”
He pointed out that the group’s non-violence approach is not in tandem with its making ‘demands’
According to him, “There is proliferation of various Niger Delta groups,” while emphasising that togetherness brings strength and suggested a merger of several of these groups to become more formidable and speak to government.
“There will always be hungry people and no government in the world can provide for all the needs of its people. The government can only provide an enabling environment for people with requisite skills to thrive.”
He deplored the rampant protests by various Niger Delta groups to the Amnesty office and NNPC.
He also condemned the attitude of protesting against indigenes of the region heading certain government agencies which leads to their removal, noting that “This never happens to people from other regions.”
“We should look at how far the interventionist agencies have gone in the region. How have the state governments and local governments fared? Is the humongous funds for derivation making any impact in the region?
“We should know that these agencies will one day be scrapped. The stipends received by ex-agitators are insufficient and they should consider forming cooperatives and get loans to develop themselves. The program is not sustainable
“Some ex-agitators that were trained on skills acquisition prefer receiving stipends over getting jobs and applying such skills
“We should think out of the box and collectively fashion out ways of developing ourselves. Set goals and visions that donor organisations can key into.”
Other members of the group who attended the consultative meeting include, Timotubo Gesiere, Vice chairman, Orlando Emmanuel, Francis Miebi, Sokari Ibinabo, Owoye Ebikake, and Kenneth Timibrabo.