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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“To hear that such a recommendation was done shows the lack of understanding of the programme and failure at the highest level. “We have been skeptical of the committee saddled with the management of that programme by the NSA because he seems not to be coming to equity with clean hands.
“So for the committee to make this recommendation shows a lack of understanding of the foundational reason the programme was set up in the first place. “So for me, for issues regarding the Niger Delta, the president is not serious about that, otherwise, the Amnesty Office, NDDC are enmeshed in allegations of corruption and yet the president has been silent about them.
“However, I am not surprised because the NSA’s office has been complicit in allegations of contractual arrangements and these allegations are everywhere and nobody has investigated them, so for the NSA to now set up a panel to look at the office is like being a judge in your own case.”
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.