The amnesty programme which was designed to curb restiveness in the Niger Delta region and ensure smooth operations of the oil and gas sector which sustains the economy is being dodged by myriad problems. The latest is allegedly the exclusion of the original beneficiaries who are being replaced through new rules of disqualifying them by insisting on use of Bush Names under which they were enumerated as against their real names. National Chairman of the agitators, Chief Kile Selky Torughedi also known as Young Shall Grow raised the alarm with Ahamefula Ogbu….excerpts
Why are you asking for a review of the amnesty programme?
Because recently the way the programme is going is mind bogging. The programme had been fashioned for 30,000 ex-agitators and now, we the leaders of the 30000 people don’t even know how the programme is going that is why we are asking the federal government to bring in forensic auditors to audit it to know the real agitators that have been captured under the programme. Such audit will help to prove to the government if the programme has been hijacked or still going on according to plan. The forensic audit will check whether those benefitting from the programme are still those it was intended for as well as determine if and where the programme has left the tracks
I learnt that there is an apprehension among amnesty beneficiaries, what is it?
This year we were told that there was a new directive in the admission process which is ongoing now. There is a statement that we could no longer use our real names to go to school again. From the origin of the programme, everybody had been captured using Bush Names to train their followers in various universities even in the Diaspora but I wonder why the office said we could no longer use our real names in place of Bush Names to go to school.
What is Bush Name?
The Bush name is the name that everybody among the agitators and their followers were bearing during the time of the struggle. For example, I can be Daimowe also known as Peretaye , like I am Chef Selky Kile Torughedi aka Young Shall Grow and if I want to go to school and I want Young Shall Grow which is my Bush name to be replaced with Selky my real name, they will say no, that it will not happen again and it is affecting all of us and this could lead to another agitation because this is the reason why we all came out from the creeks that we should go to school and get better understanding and training to embrace society. But I don’t know if that directive is from the federal government because what we understand is that that is the new rule and affects not just one individual. But this order seems to be emanating from the amnesty office that we can’t substitute our Bush Name again to go to school which violates the initial arrangement. That cannot happen because if that happens now I don’t think it will augur well for anybody.
The implication appears to be that insisting on use of Bush Names means dropping the original agitators that were enumerated and disarmed, so who becomes the beneficiaries?
What we heard and understand now is that there are people who work in that office that are bringing their people who are not in the amnesty programme and they are making them the beneficiaries whereas we that are the original people who the programme was designed for are being stopped now on account of enumerating us through Bush Names. You know there was an understanding that we should use Bush names since we did not have total trust then that nothing will go wrong so it was granted us and now midway, they are saying you either answer the bush name and go to school with it or you would be ruled out. They are introducing this thing now that admission in and outside Nigeria is starting which is causing apprehension.
When the programme was designed everybody came up with Bush Name, we were answering Bush Names when we were in the creek like I earlier on explained. If they are insisting on our bearing Bush Names means they are rejecting all of us, all the 30000 delegates that were captured in the programme which is very bad.
Is it a very serious issue?
It is a very serious issue because a lot of calls are flooding my phones as the National Chairman of the agitators and you can see that this is what is happening so it is causing tension .They wrote us that that is the situation which means that none of us is going to school again either here or abroad and that means closing the amnesty programme for us which as a leader I don’t support and we won’t succumb to and I don’t advise it to be so. I want federal government to look at this and the problems we are facing in the amnesty programme that we don’t even have access to that office to express our feeling to the so called SA on Niger Delta matters because this office was created because of the problems of the Niger Delta and if the amnesty programme or the office cannot take care of these issues that means there is going to be another hostility in the Niger Delta region.
What does amnesty training slot for impacted communities mean?
The programme was for 30,000 people but there are lots of benefits in the programme. Other SAs that left the office made provisions for impacted communities which some of them trained abroad and some in Nigeria, so none of us has been asked to bring names from our communities who suffered one way of the other while those who were never part of it submit names and are trained as members of impacted communities but we who should know are shielded off. We want our people from our communities to benefit and be trained, not just those nominated who had nothing to do with the programme but because they are in those offices, they substitute names and put whoever they like. You know when the agitation was going on, communities were raided and burnt, some women were raped and people died, some lost parents and children and those people should be keyed into the programme, those are the impacted communities.
Have you written to formally complain on the possible implications of the new directive?
Yes. As a leader, I have just written to the Amnesty office that we should have a crucial meeting next week and we have written for the audience with the SA which we are yet to get a reply.
Does that mean there are plans to hijack the programme from the genuine agitators?
Already it has been hijacked because none of us has benefitted from this amnesty programme. Initially, when it started, 70 leaders were captured in the programme, to be empowered and equipped to train their followers and none of these people have been empowered to take care of their followers. People from different places, people who are not part of this programme have been training people abroad but we, the original group that it was meant for, if we come to let them mobilise our people they will start to call us names so our problem is that if it is how this programme was designed, the federal government should come up and tell us.
With the recent ministerial appointments he has done very well by picking our brilliant people from the Niger Delta and with such, things will start changing in the region because those chosen know the region and the people because the struggle is for all of us.