By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Prof. Charles Dokubo, yesterday disclosed that the federal government had trained at least 20,000 Niger Delta ex-militants in the last eight years.
Dokubo, who spoke when he visited Boro Town, Kaiama, Bayelsa State, to flag-off the empowerment of ex-agitators who had undergone training, noted that he was reviewing the initiative for greater impact on the beneficiaries.
He added that though the programme was well thought-out, it had also created the fresh problem of youths who had gone through training, but remained unemployed.
According to him, to mitigate the danger of the likely effect of training without employment, the federal government decided to embark on several phases of empowerment, including the one that held yesterday.
“Today, we are here to empower several already-trained ex-agitators enrolled in the presidential amnesty programme to become self-employed and become possibly employers of labour.
“The amnesty office has in the last eight years trained 20,000 Niger Delta youths in different skills and vocations, but many of them remain unemployed.
“To achieve lasting peace in the region, all hands must be on deck to provide employment and empowerment opportunities for our youths across the Niger Delta that are not covered by the programme, but need training and employment”, he said.
Dokubo explained that the Niger Delta was now relatively safe, peaceful and ripe to attract investors, and used the occasion to call on investors to not only invest in the oil and gas sector but also in agro- allied businesses in the region.
He added: “Under President Muhammadu Buhari, the government has made the region conducive for investment. However, we have also realised that it is dangerous to train persons and then leave them idle. The provision of jobs for the youths of Niger Delta must be a collective effort by all stakeholders.
“Nigeria has the potential to become a great and cohesive nation and even a greater economy to match and surpass that of India and Brazil. Oil revenue should be used to diversify the economy which has been too dependent on oil and gas and create job opportunities for its large population which is predominantly youth.”
He also urged the youths of the region to sustain the current peace in the area, noting that the federal government was working very hard to keep them busy and happy.
In his comments, Head of Integration in the Amnesty Office, Aroloyeteim Ibisime, said that about 30,000 had enjoyed different levels of reintegration into civil society since the programme commenced.
“A lot is being done and we have a responsibility to deepen peace in the region for these programmes to manifest. The emergence of modular refineries, takeoff of the Maritime University, Ogoni cleanup and several others are as a result of the new vision which the present government is driving to ensure that the region is developed”, he said.