Amnesty Office: Caring in Moments of Need

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In this report, Bola Adigun chronicles the efforts of the Presidential Amnesty Office in alleviating the pains of victims of the recent flood in the Niger Delta

It has been a harrowing experience for inhabitants of many communities across Nigeria in the last few months as they watched helplessly as the flood, which accompanied the 2018 rain season swept away their prized possessions and even in some cases, precious lives of their children, relations and friends.

Tales of Woe

The woes inflicted on the country by the flood disaster were well captured in a report released by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) last month. According to the agency, as at October 9, 2018, a total of 103 Local Government Areas across 10 states in the country, were impacted by severe flooding with an estimated 1.9 million people affected. The agency further added that 561,442 people have been internally displaced while 351,236 are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. NEMA put the number of lives lost to the disaster at 199 while it also indicated that 1,306 injuries were reported.

The report noted that areas located along the Niger and Benue rivers have been the most affected by flooding. Thus, states in the Niger Delta are among the most ravaged by the merciless flood. At the peak of the flooding, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa States were declared national disaster zones. Many across the oil producing region were forced to evacuate their water submerged communities for temporary camps set up and operated by their various state governments in conjunction with NEMA.

In Bayelsa State, where some of the major rivers pass through, NEMA disclosed that some 517,694 persons were affected with many communities, schools, houses and hospitals submerged in water. At some point, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State ordered the closure of all schools in the affected communities and of course the emergency evacuations of the hapless residents of these communities.

Thankfully, many of the displaced people are now trying to pick up their lives again as flood water receded following cessation of rainfall. NEMA and the respective state governments have been trying their best to facilitate the return of the displaced people to their communities. But there is no doubt that the flood victims will need much more support than what the states and the emergency agency can deliver even as they start the process of rebuilding their lives.

Impact of Amnesty Office

It was in this vein that the recent intervention of the Presidential Amnesty Office in ameliorating the plight of the flood victims through provision of relief materials is being commended by leaders and other stakeholders in the region. In what is obviously another demonstration of his assertion that the impact of the Amnesty Programme must be felt by every community in the Niger Delta, Professor Charles Dokubo, the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, had recently ordered the distribution of food and other household items across affected areas to give succor to some of the victims of the flood disaster in the states across the Niger Delta.

The focus of the week-long distribution of relief materials was on communities mostly affected by the flood. “The Amnesty Programme is meant for the people of the Niger Delta and whatever affects communities in the region affects us directly or indirectly. President Muhammadu Buhari was moved by reports on your plight and we are here to identify with you in your period of need; we are here to alleviate your pains,” Dokubo was quoted to have said while flagging off the distribution of relief materials at Bomadi, headquarters of Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State on Saturday, November 10. He added that the gesture was to provide succour for the inhabitants of the affected communities who had lived in terrible conditions since their homes and sources of livelihood were ravaged by the flood. Items distributed by the Presidential Amnesty Office to the flood victims included food, household items and medicines.

“So far, we’ve spent N90 million on purchase of the relief materials we are distributing to the various communities which include Bomadi, Oboro, Okpokunou, Esanma, Akugbene, Ogodobiri, Ezebiri, Ayakoromo, Tuomo, Ogbobagbene, Kpakiama, Obotebe, Ofonibeinghan, Gbekebo,Ogbeingbene, Patani, Aven, Kolowari and Gbaregolor, among several other communities in Delta State,” Mr. Murphy Ganagana, Spokesperson for the Amnesty Programme disclosed recently.

In Bayelsa State, relief materials were also distributed to flood victims at Adagbabiri, Odi, Trofani, Kaiama, Esampou, Zarama, Ogbeinbiri, and other communities, Opuama, Ofunama, Shekelewu, Ogbudugbudu, Arogbo, Safa-Arogbo, AgadagbaObon, and Ajakoroama, Opugbini. Many communities in Edo and Ondo States also benefitted from the relief materials given out to flood victims by the Amnesty Office.

Commendations

Leaders of affected communities and direct beneficiaries of the laudable gesture by the Amnesty Office were ecstatic and praised the Federal Government and the programme coordinator.

“It is on record that we have had several flood disasters in the past; I remember what happened in 2012 and thereafter. This is the first time the Amnesty Office will share in our pains and take steps to ameliorate our plight. This is commendable and I urge other private and public organisations to take a cue from what the Amnesty Office has done to give us succour,” the Ebedaowei of Kabowei kingdom, Aserifa Hope Torru said at at Trofani, Bayelsa State, while receiving the officials of the Amnesty Office at his palace before the commencement of distribution of the relief materials in the community. He further described Dokubo as a humane, responsive and caring leader committed to the best interest and welfare of the people of the Niger Delta.

Speaking in the same vein, the Chairman of Oboro community in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, Mr. Ebiarede Opukeme, said the gesture of the Amnesty Office was soul-lifting, even as he expressed his appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing Dokubo as the head of the amnesty programme. “We are happy that President Buhari appointed a man like Prof. Dokubo as Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme”, Opukeme said.

Reintegration

The empowerment of the flood victims for resettlement into their communities is an extension of the path taken by Dokubo in repositioning the Amnesty Programme for the benefit of the ex-agitators and the Niger Delta at large since his assumption of office about five months ago. Indeed, since assumption of office as the coordinator, Dokubo has been co-opting leaders of the Niger Delta to work with the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to make sure that the prevailing peace, safety and security are sustained in the oil producing region.

Determined to fast-track the reintegration of former militant agitators in the Niger Delta into civil society, Dokubo is currently perfecting arrangements to activate the vocational training centres built by his predecessor across states in the Niger Delta. For the Amnesty boss, the new direction for the programme is to ensure world class vocational training that will enable benefitting ex-agitators to stand on their feet and depend less on monthly stipend from the federal government.

Dokubo has also created a link for job placements to ensure that the trainees are gainfully employed after their training unlike what happened in the past. “If they have jobs, it is a multiplier effect. It is not only about human security; it is about empowering people. If the individual is secure, the region and the society is secure. That is the aim of this administration,” Dokubo said in a recent interview.