By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The federal government has inaugurated a six-member special investigative panel to unravel the circumstances and masterminds of the recent looting of virtually all movable assets in the state-of-the-art Presidential Amnesty Programme’s Training Centre in Kaiama, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government of Bayelsa State.
The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo, who inaugurated the panel chaired by Brig-Gen. S.A. Songonuga (rtd) in Abuja, Monday, vowed to unmask the perpetrators as well as their sponsors and prosecute them accordingly.
Dokubo assured that the perpetrators of the nefarious act who also vandalised property at the training facility about three weeks ago, deserve severe punishment in accordance with the nation’s laws.
He expressed shock at the conduct of the army of invaders who overwhelmed the military and other security personnel on guard and also brazenly embarked on an orgy of looting of items meant for distribution to residents of communities impacted during the Niger
Delta crises, on the eve of the commissioning of the world-class facility.
According to him: “Preliminary findings have since shown that items carted away by these mindless looters included assortment of equipment procured and already installed in the centre for the seamless training of ex-agitators enlisted in the Amnesty Programme and other youths in the Niger Delta in such areas as carpentry, hotel and catering management, tailoring, shoemaking, welding and fabrication, event planning and decoration as well as hair dressing.
“Our initial findings also revealed that post-training empowerment start-up packs warehoused in sections of the Vocational Training Centre in Kaima, were completely looted by these persons. The plunderers even proceeded to thoroughly vandalise the completed
lecture halls, administration block and other structures in the Vocational Training Centre.
Sadly, the looting went on unabated for alomost three days, including on Thursday 14th of February, the day slated for the actual commissioning and activation of this facility.
“As I eventually gathered, there were almost 3000 persons gathered at the place at any particular time for three days. So even if the soldiers and other security forces deployed had decided to shoot at the persons involved in this wanton looting, how many people would they have killed or how many persons would have survived?” He queried.
Dokubo noted that but for an instruction passed by the authorities to the security forces against shooting at the invaders; several lives would have been lost, giving the opposition an opportunity for incitement of communities in the Niger Delta to violence a few days to
the presidential and national assembly elections.
He asked the panel to truly appraise the roles played by the military and other security agencies in Kaiama on the subject-matter, even as he dismissed the conspiracy speculations making the rounds on the incident, expressing optimism that the panel which was set up after due consultations with the highest level of the nation’s security services, would unravel the truth and identify the perpetrators and their sponsors.
The terms of reference of the panel include but not limited to ascertaining the remote and immediate causes of the incident and identifying persons remotely and directly connected with the looting and vandalisation of the facility.
The panel will also ascertain the exact cost of training equipment, empowerment start-up packs and other looted items, as well as appraise the security situation in the training centre prior to the looting, and ascertain if the incident could have been prevented.
It is also to ascertain the culpability or otherwise of security personnel, staff of the Amnesty Office or contractors in the looting of the facility; prescribe requisite punishments or sanctions for persons found culpable in the criminal act.
Dokubo assured members of the panel which has seven working days to submit its report, of his support and approval to request for and be given any official file or document that would enable it do a thorough investigation of the incident.