Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The federal government has announced the release of additional N30 billion for the smooth running of the ongoing Amnesty Programme in the Niger Delta, in pursuit of sustained peace in the region.
The release brought the total amount made available by the government for the programme in 2016 fiscal year to N50 billion.
The federal government had approved N20 billion allocation for the Amnesty Programme in 2016 budget. But the National Assembly increased the figure to N55 billion.
Consequently, the government released N20 billion earlier. The second tranche of N30 billion newly released for the programme brought the total release to N50 billion, leaving the balance of N5 billion which the government promised to release soon, as the National Assembly is expected to pass the 2017 budget this week.
A statement last night by the media aide to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the Amnesty Office had paid all ex-militants the backlog of their arrears up to the end of 2016.
The statement further said the release of the additional fund came on the heels of presidential level interactive engagements in the Niger Delta during which it said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had come up with a new vision for oil-producing areas.
The statement added that the move was spurred by the presentation made by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) to the President during the visit of leaders and stakeholders from the region to him last November.
â€œSubsequently, the President asked his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) to embark on a tour of the region that saw him visiting several oil-producing states in the country.
â€œBesides the monthly payment of about N65,000 to N66,000 to the ex-militants, the funds would also go to the provision of reintegration activities under the Amnesty Programme including payment of tuition fees for beneficiaries from the Niger Delta who are in post-secondary institutions at home and abroad, payment of in-training and hazard allowances and vocational training costs.â€
â€œThere are also empowerment schemes and self-help, self-employment support funds, including provision of needed equipment by the Amnesty Office. Equally, the funds would also support the training of pilots, aviation engineers, technicians, and motor vehicles mechanics from the oil-producing communities,â€ the statement added.
The statement further said the government of Buhari reassured the Niger Delta communities of its unalloyed commitment to the faithful implementation of the promises it made during the federal governmentâ€™s interactive engagement visits by the vice president to different oil-producing communities.
It also said other promises made during the visits were currently at different stages of implementation, including the opening of the Maritime University, integration of illegal refiners under the concept of new modular refineries, resumption of all abandoned construction projects in the region, the Ogoni clean-up, and several others.
â€œFor instance the Maritime University is now on course to be opened before the end of the year as the presidency has already set the process in motion as announced yesterday. Other announcements are to follow as each of the commitments of the federal government to the Niger Delta oil-producing communities reaches advanced and implementation stages.
â€œAlready, there is an inter-ministerial group consisting of all relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government, with the involvement of relevant state governments led by the vice president that meet regularly to drive the different initiatives and ensure effective and ongoing implementationâ€, the statement added.