Kingsley Kuku tells the story of Amnesty as an insider, and discusses its future, writes Adeola Akinremi
More often than not, Kingsley Kuku, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger- Delta, and Chairman of Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) is worried about the future. This uncertainty has nothing to do with his own future, but the future of the programme he now leads as the Chairman of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme.
Penultimate week in Lagos, Kuku said: “It is time for the states to take responsibility for the youths. It is the only way to sustain the gains of the amnesty programme. States in the Niger Delta must constitute alternate engagement platforms for unemployed youths and women... If we continue to open our East-West Road to demonstrators (for inclusion in the amnesty programme), we are inviting adverse consequences. The Niger-Delta would be back to the abyss, and Nigeria would suffer.”
In many ways, the amnesty programme has ensured socio-economic stability in the restive oil rich Niger- Delta and has impacted on Nigeria’s earnings, according to statistics. These gains are what Kuku wishes must be sustained.
He said: “The amnesty programme has been a success for the country, especially in terms of crude production output and revenue earned by the country. In May 2009, before the proclamation, production output had dipped to 680,000 barrels of per day, from 2.2 million barrels per day. Due to the amnesty programme, the nation’s crude oil production today stands at about 2.7 million barrels per day and the target of 4.5 million barrels per day is plausible, if amnesty gains are sustained.”
Perhaps the continued agitation by more and more unemployed young people in the Niger Delta region who have devised a new tactic of getting at the government is making Kuku a worried man. In recent times, more youths who claimed to be ex-militants after months of expiration of the 60-day amnesty period are coming out to surrender guns and ammunition and asking to be included in the programme. In a few instances, they have found their way to Abuja, the seat of government, to stage demonstrations and in the past some of them have blocked the ever busy Lokoja-Abuja Road just as a number of them have taken over the popular East-West Road to demand their inclusion.
For Kuku, it is unacceptable that a few young people still hold the country hostage in the name of Niger- Delta struggle that is characterised by insincerity. As a result, he fired a salvo: “The amnesty was not meant to address development issues, but people specific. It was about disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. The programme is not for unemployed youths, but those who have been agitators who agreed to surrender their guns and embraced the amnesty programme within a given period. The amnesty programme is a five-year programme that ends in 2015. It is not an unending programme.”
In fact, according to Kuku, the growing propensity for unemployed youths in the region to come up with bogus claims of involvement in the armed agitation that gave birth to the amnesty programme, in order to benefit from it, could frustrate the aim of the project if unchecked.
He alleged complicity by security agencies in the Niger-Delta in a never-ending circle of claims of arms being returned by youths who tend to see the programme as a source of employment. Kuku said 20,192 ex-militants were involved in the first phase of the amnesty programme, explaining that they have been disarmed and demobilised and are awaiting the reintegration phase.
“The federal government, in October 2010 added 6,166 ex-agitators whose arms and ammunitions were collected and received by the JTF and other security agencies in the Niger Delta, pushing the total number of people by the end of December 2010 to 26,358 persons under the presidential amnesty programme.”
He confirmed that the 6,166 ex-agitators in the second phase of the amnesty programme had also been disarmed and demobilised and are waiting reintegration.
However, he said: “Surprisingly, security agencies in the Niger-Delta, again, have claimed to have received more arms and ammunition from youths in the Niger Delta, who as far as I am concerned are claiming also to be part of the Niger-Delta agitation.
“It gives us a sense of an unending disarmament programme, which is not in tandem with the spirit of those of us who planned the amnesty programme. The programme we are running is not unending, it has a terminal programme. It has to terminate come 2015.”
He disclosed that the federal government has set up a panel, led by Air Vice Marshal Gbun, to verify the claims, adding that if found to be true, the arms and ammunition submitted by these fresh set of ex-militants must be taken to Enugu for destruction, and the ex-agitators would be included. “As far as Mr. President is concerned, that would be the final,” he declared.
He said upon termination in 2015, care for participants in the amnesty programme, who would still be undergoing training, because of the duration of their four to five-year courses, would become the responsibility of another Federal Government agency, that will be decided.
Kuku emphasised that the amnesty programme is not a platform to engage unemployed youths in the Niger-Delta, and called on governors of states in the region, which he noted have benefitted immensely in terms of increased federal allocation accruing to them since the programme was proclaimed, to be up to help sustain the gains of the programme by creating programmes that will address unemployment and economic injustice.
Though Kuku believes addressing the issue of development, which is critical in the Niger-Delta region will help keep the youths focused, at the same time he warned young people not to become victims of their own greed.
So far, the amnesty programme has offered a lifeline to a number of participants who willingly surrendered to embrace the programme. For instance, in September 2012, no fewer than 30 youths were engaged in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following their successful completion of their skills acquisition programme.
Now in its third year, the Niger-Delta amnesty programme is an off-shoot of the presidential pardon granted ex-militants of the region by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua on June, 25, 2009.