Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Delta State Governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa and his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Governor Udom Emmanuel, have joined community leaders and other stakeholders in the Niger Delta region to demand a holistic review of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), which they noted, has failed to ensure the re-integration of ex-militants into the society.
The governors, speaking at a House of Representatives public hearing on “A Bill for an Act to Establish the Presidential Programme or Rehabilitation/Re-integration for Implementation of Amnesty on Niger Delta,” said an urgent review of the programme would calm frayed nerves which have surfaced in renewed militancy.
The hearing was conducted by the Committee on Delta Affairs chaired by Hon. Essien Ayi (Cross River PDP) on Tuesday. The bill which prompted the hearing is sponsored by Hon. Oluwole Oke (Osun PDP).
Okowa, represented by his Special Adviser on National Affairs, Mr. Paschal Adigwe, said while the disarmament and retraining of ex-militants was successful in some of the communities in the region, it failed in other communities.
He noted that following disarmament, some of the militants did not receive trainings to make them relevant in their chosen disciplines, rendering them jobless.
“Reintegration has failed. There are no jobs for the ex-militants as we now have an army of well-trained youths without jobs. You have many trained pilots, but where are the aircraft that they will fly? This is leading to frustration and renewed agitation…Above all, the proposed Niger Delta infrastructure development plan has remained in the pipeline,” he said.
The governor also faulted that manner of funding of the programme, which he noted was executed fully from Abuja without inputs from states in the region.
A review of the programme, Okowa said, should include the states of the Niger Delta, oil multinationals, the military and former militants.
“”Dialogue, not confrontation is the way forward. A hardline posture on the part of any group in the face of what the country is currently passing through will only compound an already bad situation. The Niger Delta Region is in dire need of modern infrastructure. The Federal Government should declare an emergency in this area and demonstrate commitment to urgently reversing the situation on the ground,” the Governor said.
“Local communities hosting the oil and gas industries should be guaranteed a certain percentage of workers/contracts in these companies. That gives them a stake in these companies and delivers protection and safety for the companies and their workers,”
On his part, Emmanuel who was also represented by his Special Adviser, Mr. Samuel Ekah, lamented that the state was largely excluded from the Amnesty programme, even though it is a major producer of oil.
“There should be a total review of the programme to carry all sections of the region along. Akwa Ibom State has been short-changed as we have been largely excluded from the PAP “, he said.
Representative of the traditional rulers at the hearing, Prof. Jasper Jumbo, said monies used to militarise the region, should instead be deployed to train and re-integrate the former militants.
“That the two percent of the total annual budget of all the oil, the gas, no exception and power generating companies in Niger Delta should be taken at source and made directly payable into the funding provisions of the amnesty act, as means of shoring up the funding provisions of that programme, so that the programme can now address the issues of both rehabilitation, reintegration, ecological degradation, infrastructural development and technical cooperatives of these youths,” he said.
Sponsor of the bill, Oke, who spoke earlier, said it was borne out of a need to ensure a legal framework for the PAP and set an exit date for the programme.
“There is no legal framework for this programme. This has led to abuses of the programme over time. As it is, there is no exit date for the programme and it cannot continue endlessly,” Oke said.