New Deal for Former Niger Delta Agitators

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With the completion of the Vocational Training Centre in Agadagba-Obon, Ondo State, the Amnesty Office has given fresh impetus to the training of ex-agitators in the Niger Delta. Ndubuisi Francis reports

The Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) for former agitators in the Niger Delta appears clearly headed for a paradigm shift. Under the current Coordinator, Prof. Charles Dokubo, emphasis is shifting from training the beneficiaries after which they go back and start expecting N65, 000 monthly stipend, as is currently the case.
There is a new synergy between training and job placement for beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme, and the ultimate beneficiaries will be the Niger Delta region in particular and the nation at large.

A New Dawn
When he hosted a delegation of Ijaw Youth Council (YC) recently, Dokubo was excited as he spoke about the dawn of a new vision of peace and development in the Niger Delta through the expedited deployment of ex-agitators for training programmes that will lead to their sustainable employment.

He said: “For those of you who have been close to this programme, one thing that we will not toy with is training for the ex-agitators. I don’t just send people to train and all that. Training and vocations should be linked to universities and institutions so as to achieve proper certification for the trainees.
“Like the one we want to open in Ondo State in the next two weeks, the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurrun, is going to be in charge of that training, because at the end of the training, the persons trained must have certificates,” he told the IYC team led by its President, Mr. Oweilaemi Pereotubo.

His reference was to the Vocational (Oil & Gas) Training Centre in Agadagba-Obon, in Ese-Odo Local Government of Ondo State.
The centre, which is scheduled to take off in the next couple of days was one of the vocational training centres started, but abandoned at various stages in the past six years by previous PAP administrations.

Addressing Abandoned Vocational Centres
Apart from Agadagba-Obon vocational centre, the other abandoned vocational centres inherited by Dokubo on assumption of office a few months ago, are located in Kaiama, New Boro Town (Bayelsa State); Obuama, Harry’s Town (Rivers State); Gelegele (Edo State) and Bomadi (Delta State).
But Dokubo has aggressively pursued the completion of the vocational training centres on assumption of office as part of his drive to ensure the accelerated empowerment of ex-agitators.
He seemed to have particularly realised that the completion of the vocational centres is important as records presented to him on assumption of office indicated that out of 30,000 ex-agitators who dropped their arms and ammunition to embrace amnesty, 11,297 are still waiting to either undergo vocational training that will enable them to be self-employed or be deployed for formal education.

The realisation that speedy completion and activation of the vocational training centres will help fast-track the training and reintegration of already demobilised Niger Delta ex-agitators into civil society and help also aide the socio-economic development of the oil producing region. He also reckons that the speedy completion and activation of the vocational training centres would help reduce the huge costs currently being incurred by the Amnesty Office in the provision of vocational trainings for the beneficiaries in private facilities within and outside the country.

“For me, I reckoned that the fastest way of achieving accelerated training for the several ex-agitators waiting to be trained and save costs at the same time, is to speedily complete and promptly activate the five training centres currently under construction across five states in the Niger Delta. The vocational training centres were started by my predecessors and I am determined to complete and put all of them to immediate use so as to save some money for the government”, he said in a recent media chat.

Pioneer Training Centre

Stakeholders in the Niger Delta are delighted that the completion, equipping and furnishing of the soon-to-be inaugurated Oil & Gas Training Centre in Agadagba-Obon, is an unassailable solid evidence that Dokubo is living up to his promise.

The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo is expected to commission the facility which is the Amnesty Programme’s pioneer training centre equipped with ultra-modern training equipment with capability to offer up-to-date basic training in oil and gas technology to ex-agitators.
Graduates of the training facility, Dokubo said, would easily secure jobs in the highly competitive oil and gas sector in the Niger Delta and beyond.

He has thrown his rich background in the academia to the mix by ensuring that a UK-based firm in conjunction with the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) in Warri designed the requisite curriculum for the proper certification of the trainees of the Vocational Training Centre in Agadagba-Obon as approved by the National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB).

NABTEB was established in 1992 to domesticate craft level examinations which were hitherto conducted by City & Guilds, Pitman’s and Royal Society of Arts – all of the United Kingdom (UK). Dokubo has already hinted that a seasoned personality from the academia will head the new training facility as its rector.

He said: “It is a world class technical college that we now have in place in Agadagba-Obon and as such, we are going to secure the services of someone from the academia who will handle the day-to-day administration of the facility as the rector.”

The Amnesty Office has already signed a Memoradum of Understanding (MoU) with PTI to handle the core training components of the vocational training centre.

The MoU will ensure the full training of the beneficiaries in specialised fields in the oil and gas industry, such as oil and gas drilling, instrumentation, mechanical technology, electrical technology and process technology.

According to Dokubo, “I want the training this facility will provide to be competitive and world class. Over the years, PTI has shown class in the training of personnel in basic skills in oil and gas sector. So, I am extremely excited that our training facility will very shortly rank among the best such facilities in this country and possibly in Africa.”

Meanwhile, a team from the United Kingdom who supplied the training equipment in the centre is currently working with the team from PTI, Warri, to test-run the already installed training equipment.

The Amnesty Programme Coordinator equally hinted that the Amnesty Office has already screened about 200 beneficiaries of the new Oil and Gas Vocational Training Centre in the coming days.

Given that the hostel facility in the new training centre is yet to be completed, the Amnesty Office has since secured a private hostel and other accommodation facilities for the trainees and their trainers in Agadagba.

Besides, the Amnesty Office is also targeting the commissioning and full activation of the Vocational Training Centres in Kaiama in Bayelsa State and Bomadi in Delta State before the end of the year.

“Kaiama has been equipped and we are currently furnishing the place. In another three weeks, maximum, the training centre in Kaiama should go on stream. The facility in Bomadi is at the verge of being equipped and furnished. Before the end of the year, we will also activate the Vocational Centre in Bomadi,” he assured.

Job Opportunities
But one remarkable thing was his assurance that the trainees will be matched with job opportunities at the end of their training in the centres. According to him, the activation of the new vocational training centres is in tune with his determination not only to facilitate training for ex-agitators, but also to ensure that they are employed after their training.

He believes in the paradigm shift of; ‘Trained to work, not trained to go and take stipends’. He said: “That is what I am trying to do, and I believe that in the next two or three months, they will see what I am trying to do for this office. Once we can create that synergy between training and work placement, I think we are going to sing a new song and dance a new dance, and that is what I am going to do. I believe everybody will like it. I don’t want to train people and they will go back and be expecting N65, 000 stipend, like is currently the case.”

He added that the Niger Delta and the nation will gain from the synergy between training and job placement for beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme.

His philosophy about this is: “As you are trained and given a job, the benefit to society is that you also pay tax, and as you pay tax, it is also coming back to the community.”