For the people of the Niger Delta and other stakeholders of the Presidential Amnesty Programme all roads will lead to Agadagba-Obon community in Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State tomorrow for the unveiling of what some analysts have described as a ‘crown jewel’ in the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari and his Special Adviser on Niger Delta, Professor Charles Dokubo to ensure that the amnesty porgramme delivers on its promise of empowerment and wealth creation for ex-agitators in the region. Segun James reports
Set for unveiling and full activation for the training of ex-agitators, in the coastal community in Ondo State, is a world class Oil & Gas Basic Skills Vocational Training Centre. President Muhammadu Buhari, accompanied by the Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, a number of Ministers and National Assembly members, are expected to perform the commissioning on Friday.
Equipped to Provide World Class Training
The activation of the Oil & Gas Basic Skills Vocational Training Centre will mark another milestone in the advancement of the Amnesty Programme’s objective of engendering peace and sustainable development in the Niger Delta through the empowerment of ex-agitators with skills for viable employment. Students of the new center will get up-to-date basic training that will guarantee them employment in the lucrative oil and gas sector.
The Special Adviser on Niger Delta, Professor Charles Dokubo said in equipping the vocational centre, his vision was for an institution that will provide competitive, world class vocational education and will rank among the best of such facilities in Nigeria and in Africa. Pursuant to this goal, the Amnesty Office has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Effurun, (which has over the years emerged as a prime centre for training of personnel in basic skills in oil and gas operations in the country) to handle the core training components of the Amnesty Programme’s Vocational Training Centre in Agadagba-Obon.
In line with the MOU, PTI will deploy its expertise to train beneficiaries in specialised fields in the oil and gas industry, such as oil and gas drilling, instrumentation, mechanical technology, electrical technology and process technology.
The curriculum for the centre itself was designed by a United Kingdom-based firm to conform with the requirements for certification of trainees by the National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB). Thus, at the end of their training, beneficiaries would be awarded certificates endorsed by NABTEB.
It was gathered that about 200 ex-agitators have been screened to begin training at the centre after its activation on January 18. Also, the Amnesty Office has made arrangements for accommodation facilities for the trainees and their trainers in Agadagba to ensure that the training at the centre takes off without much hiccup. To further ensure that the centre is managed in a professional manner, it was learnt that the Amnesty Office has secured the services of a seasoned person from the academia to handle the day-to-day administration of the facility as the rector.
Accomplishing a Mission
For Dokubo, the activation of the Agadagba Vocational Centre would be another huge step forward in his bid to fast-track the reintegration stage of the Amnesty Programme since his appointment in March last year.
On assumption of office, the former Director of Research at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs was confronted with the fact that over 10,000 of 30,000 agitators who embraced the amnesty programme since 2009 were yet to be trained in vocational skills or deployed for formal education, contrary to the promise made to them when they were persuaded to abandon militancy and leave the creeks of the Niger Delta.
Indeed, top among the complaints he received from the interactive sessions he held with leaders of the ex-agitators and other stakeholders in Niger Delta soon after he assumed office was about the large number of beneficiaries of Amnesty Programme still waiting to be deployed for training.
Aside the Agadagba-Obon centre which is now scheduled for activation this Friday, the other uncompleted vocational centres inherited by Dokubo are located in Kaiama, New Boro Town (Bayelsa State); Obuama, Harry’s Town (Rivers State); Gelegele (Edo State) and Bomadi (Delta State).
There is no doubt that the completion of the Vocational Training Centres would remarkably help to reduce the huge amount of money being spent to train beneficiaries of the Amnesty programme in and outside the country. Dokubo is convinced that the speedy completion and activation of the vocational training centres will help accelerate the training and reintegration of ex-agitators into the society and help accelerate socio-economic development of the oil producing region.
“For me, I reckon 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,” Dokubo said in a media chat.
The Vocational Training Centres in Kaiama and Bomadi are also at the verge of being commissioned and activated for training in the first quarter of this year.
Matching Training with Jobs
The presidential aide has also repeatedly assured that beneficiary of the training programmes at the centre will be matched with employment opportunities at the end of their training.
“Trained to work, not trained to go and take stipends. That is what I am trying to do. 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 don’t want to train people and they will go back and be expecting N65, 000 as stipend from government every month,” Dokubo said.
Encomiums for Buhari
The coordinator also applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for the support of his administration for the Amnesty Programme and the actualisation of the programme’s projects and initiatives for the benefit of the people of the Niger Delta.
Speaking to reporters during his Yuletide’s vacation in his community, Abonema in Akuku Toru local government area of Rivers State, Dokubo said Buhari deserves commendation and support for not bowing to pressure to scrap the Amnesty Programme as some people told him to do when he assumed office.
“There was advice by some persons that the Presidential Amnesty Programme should be terminated as it was an ad hoc programme, but the president insisted that the programme should go on. Government has done a lot to sustain the programme. President Buhari is not relenting at all in his support for the Programme” the Amnesty Programme’s Coordinator said.
He noted that thousands of Niger Delta youths have benefited from the Presidential Amnesty Programme’s scholarships, vocational training as well as empowerment initiatives since inception.
He cited the continuing distribution of entrepreneurs’ starter packs to trained ex-agitators and youths across States in the Niger Delta as example of such benefits. “The Amnesty Programme has improved the lives of the people of the region especially the youths. With the type of Vocational Training Centres that have now been developed in Agadagba, Kaiama and other places, I strongly believe that the next level the president is bringing, which I know will come, will even be better for this programme”, Dokubo said while appealing to Niger Deltans to support the reelection of the president in 2019.