By Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The federal government through the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, has initiated move to take possession of a multi-billion naira furniture factory situated in Benin City, capital of Edo State which it had made substantial payment in 2013.
The factory is owned by a Benin based industrialist, Mr. Robert Oshodin.
The Legal Assistant to the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Amnesty Office, Mr. Richard Okolocha, and a Consultant to the Programme, Mr. Gallant Paul, led others to undertake a guided tour of the factory at the weekend.
Speaking at during the guided tour, Okolocha said the visit, which is the first in a series, is aimed at finally taking possession of the facility that was meant to be a training ground for ex-agitators from the Niger Delta region.
Okolocha, who was impressed with the facility on ground at the factory, said that no fewer than 5,000 of the regionâ€™s repentant militants who had embraced amnesty stand to be trained at the facility.
â€œI am impressed not only with the size of the factory, but the state of the art of equipment, as well as the products. I have not seen this kind of factory before in the entire West Africa Sub-Region.
â€œRight from the raw material department, production, upholstery,Â fabrication, and the show room departments, what i saw were simply breathtaking.
â€œThey (delegates) stand to benefit a lot because the factory which has various departments equipped with the right tools for a perfect job.
â€œThe factory is equipped with experts who man the various machines who will train our delegates for a start.
â€œThis is the first visit, we will be coming again for the final visit and taking over,â€ he stated.
Also speaking, the Amnesty Programme Consultant, Mr. Paul, blamed the delay in taking over of the factory by the federal government to the demise of the initiator, the late Oronto Douglas.
He said what gave birth to this place was the mandate given to the Amnesty officeÂ by former President Goodluck Jonathan, to search for a place such as this, where those who embraced amnesty could be trained without having to travel overseas.
According to him, â€œI am aware of this place because I had the opportunity to be here with the late Oronto Douglas, who was in the presidency of the former government when the negotiation was on.
â€œI also knew and opportune to know that money was paid for this place, millions of dollars, the money was for the purchase of the factory and the de-radicalisation of the ex-agitators.
â€œThe drivers, the promoters of this wonderful interest, where huge millions of dollars have been committed into this facility are late.â€
â€œThe few hundreds we have trained here are doing very well and if we can bring them back to train the trainer programme, am sure a whole lot could be achieved without having to spend much in achieving it.
â€œI am aware and also obliged to know that we train carpenters in Italy, in Germany and various places. These carpenters can come here and see what we have here.
â€œThere is none of these centres, including the one in Trinidad and Tobago which was set up by the oil company for the Trinidad and Tobago government that is called National Energy Skill Center, where we graduated hundreds students under Jonathan can boast of what we have here.
â€œFor those who conceived and the right people to actually know how to deliver properly, but unfortunately, in our country, continuity is always a challenge.
â€œBut I am glad that we have an SA to the President on Niger Delta Amnesty programme, Prof Charles Dokubo, who has given another opportunity to say we could go and explore and see how we can resolve and get our boys to train here.â€
He further stated that the owner of the factory was also desirous to see that the government take over the place and utilise same for the benefit of the Niger Delta youths and that of the country in general.
â€œYou can see what is produced here, you can see the number of oil companies that patronises this place; but unfortunately, we have not been able to have people who can take a look at it and conclude whatever it is.
â€œThe detail of what was paid and what is left is not fully available to me. What i know is that he (The owner) confirmed to me that huge money, millions of dollars, was paid to him for this factory.
â€œThere is no country in the world that will have this kind of huge facility and will go home without utilising it.
â€œThis facility is owned by the amnesty programme because legally and otherwise, money had been paid and MOU has been signed,â€ he stated.
One of the company directors who conducted the visiting Amnesty officials on a guided tour of facilities, Godwin Osagie, said the visit was a clear indication of federal government interest to take possession noting that Niger Delta youths and Nigeria stand to benefit from it.
He said: â€œI came to take them round to show them how lucrative and viable it is.Â The government is interested and that is why they came. We hope they come back again to take full possession and we are encouraging them to do that soon.â€