Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Coordinator of Nigeria’s amnesty programme for repentant militants and Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, Brig. Gen. Paul Boroh, retd, on Friday argued that the discovery of crude oil in the region fueled hunger and starvation in the area.
Boroh, who spoke in Bayelsa, his state of origin, maintained that the paradox of the oil find in the Nigeria had remained the cause of the various conflicts experienced in the past and which was presently threatening to crumble the country’s economy.
He added that the over-reliance on oil had led to a mono-economy, destruction of the ecosystem, poverty, and conflicts as evidenced by the current agitation by militant groups in the region.
Speaking after inspecting facilities at the Bio Resources Development Centre, Odi, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of the Bayelsa State, Boroh disclosed that 500 ex-militant youths from the Niger Delta would be trained in various agro-based related skills as a means of engaging the youths.
He warned that the amnesty office would no longer be a place to share ‘free money’, and urged the youths in the Niger Delta to embrace change and join hands with the government to make the area the agricultural hub of the nation.
Boroh, who also witnessed the graduation and passing-out ceremony of ex-militants from the trainees’ pilot scheme at the Centre, described the scheme as a success, noting that the potential that abound in the agriculture sector was enormous.
He pledged that some of the ex-militants would be sent to Songhai Farms in Delta State, while others would be sent to the various agriculture programmes departments at the Delta State University, DELSU, University of Port Harcourt, UNIPORT, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, RSUST, and the Peremabiri Rice Farms in the state.
Boroh stressed that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration had resolved to diversify the economy from oil and gas to agriculture, which he said was the best alternative.
“The shift from reliance on agriculture to over reliance on oil income has had a tremendous impact on agriculture and the localities where crude petroleum is found.
“This has become the harbinger of hunger, starvation, unemployment and ecosystem degradation and that is the bottom-line of the resource base conflict in the Niger Delta”, he said.
He added, however, that, “President Buhari has embarked on a drastic diversification of the economy from oil and gas dependence and agriculture to provide the nation the opportunity for growth, investment, wealth and job creation”.
To successfully address the imperative of diversification, Boroh said, the federal government was collaborating with various institutions within and outside the country to train the youths in various agriculture related fields.
In his remarks, the Director of the Odi Bio Resources Development Centre, Mr. Josiah Jabu, said the centre was established to provide scientific and technical knowledge for improving agricultural production in the country.