• Delayed amnesty stipends slowing peace process, Say ex-agitators
By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Reformed Egbesu Fraternity (REF), a Niger Delta militant group, yesterday called on the federal government to immediately halt the disbursement of the 13 per cent derivation fund through governors in the region.
In a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, the group maintained that channelling the fund through politicians since inception, has only helped in enriching a few pockets while impoverishing the majority.
It therefore called on the government to set up structures incorporating only oil-producing communities and those impacted by the exploitation of the natural mineral resource as a way of rectifying the wrongs of the past.
In the petition signed by Ebi Alagbakouriwei, ‘General Officer Commanding’ of REF, it argued that paying through the governors was not only an aberration but contradicts section 162 (2) of the 1999 constitution and item 39 on the Exclusive List.
“We, therefore demand that the federal government stops the allocation of 13 per cent derivation to the state governors of oil and gas producing states and pay the derivation component to oil and gas-producing communities through appropriate structures,” the militants’ group said.
It also called for an investigation into how over N11 trillion derivation fund has been spent since the commencement of the payment of the fund through the state governors.
The group noted that attempts by the long-suffering communities in the region to find justice by reporting the alleged sleaze to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a lawsuit in court had been frustrated.
REF argued that till date, over N277 billion of the N11 trillion remains unaccounted for, stressing that the anti-graft agency has refused to take necessary action.
“The host communities producing oil and gas reported to the EFCC that N277 billion remains unaccounted for till date, but the commission bluntly refused to take action.
“They took the matter to the law court in Delta State for the past three years, the case has never been heard till now.
“But it has been transferred from one judicial division to the other including Owa Oyibu, Asaba, Udu and back to Warri. The case has been perpetually adjourned at every sitting over the last three years,” the Egbesu group said.
The militants called on the federal government to discontinue the current mode of disbursement as it is both illegal and immoral, noting ignoring the demand could aggravate the fragile peace in the region.
“We wish to warn that the continuous indifference to this demand and appeal is an invitation to chaos and violence. Inasmuch as we do not subscribe to violence in the resolution of our demands, we condemn the Niger Delta governors for the diversion of the fund for the last 15 years.
“The federal government should partner host communities and not state governors. In this connection, we commend Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Minister of Petroleum for their commitment to the peace process and development of the region.
“Consequently, we demand two modular refineries in each of the nine states producing oil and gas and the immediate cessation of the allocation of derivation fund to the governors,” it noted.
Meanwhile, ex militants have called on President Buhari to prevail on the Ministry of Finance to immediately release the budgetary allocations meant for the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP).
The ex-agitators, under the auspices of the Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (LPCDI), made their position known at a meeting in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
In a statement issued yesterday, the National President, LPCDI, Reuben Wilson, aka, ‘General Pastor Reuben’, maintained that the prompt release of the funds would strengthen the current peace process.
He noted that the delay in payments of stipends to PAP’s beneficiaries would greatly negate the current efforts of the Federal Government to enthrone peace in the region.
“The group is greatly concerned about the current state of lack of funds in the Amnesty Office to carry out its programmes which are designed to permanently eradicate restiveness in the Niger Delta region.
“As stakeholders, who truly want the accelerated development of the Niger Delta, the delay could slow the ongoing peace process and we wouldn’t want such to happen.
“Anyone, or group of persons that do not consider the importance of the Presidential Amnesty Programme in the peace building process of the region is an enemy of the nation.
‘’Such person, or group of persons does not also mean well for the administration of President Buhari as the economic prosperity and development of the nation still largely depends on the peace in the Niger Delta,” the ex-militant said.
He also expressed concern over the poor funding of the Niger Delta scholarship students in the United Kingdom under the federal government Amnesty programme.