Deji Elumoye in Abuja
An elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari, against the idea of scrapping the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) established in 2009 to cater for repentant militants and other stakeholders from the Niger Delta region.
Clark, at a Zoom press conference at his Asokoro, Abuja residence yesterday, warned the federal government to desist from doing anything that will truncate the fragile peace in the Niger Delta region.
He stated that his advice was premised on information that a panel set up by the federal government to look into the activities of the amnesty programme had recommended its scrapping with effect from December.
He said: “I say this because just yesterday, rumours were rife that the four-man investigative panel headed by Ambassador A.A. Lawal, set up by the federal government, through the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), to look into the activities of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), has recommended the scrapping of the programme by December this year, 2020.
“If this is true, it will be an epic example of what we say in local parlance ‘trouble dey sleep, yanga go wake am’.
“This is not a threat; it is stating the obvious of what will actually happen.
“When I got this information yesterday, my temper was high because how can a region, which contributes so much to the economic growth, and by extension, political and social growth of the country, be treated with so much disdain and spite?”
He, therefore, advised the federal government to tread cautiously, saying this is recipe for peace in the Niger Delta region and not necessarily a threat.
“Except they have prepared another ‘Operation Crocodile Smile,’ government needs to be very cautious. Wake not a sleeping lion. This is not a threat; it is a clarion call for peace,” he said.
The leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) asked the members of the investigative panel why it never visited the Niger Delta region to see things for themselves and make informed judgments.
He said: “The question is: Did Ambassador Lawal and his team ever travel to the Niger Delta region to find out if the objective of setting up the programme such as infrastructural development, sand filling; building low- cost houses, building roads, which are to be carried out by the PAP as its second phase activities contained in the proclamation, been achieved? As someone outside of the region does he really understand or feel the sufferings of the people of the region?
“Also, what measures have been put in place by the federal government to fulfill its promises to the region such as setting up modular refineries, the relocation of the operational headquarters of the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and the Ogoni cleanup as contained in the 16-point Agenda of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), which we presented to Mr. President at the Presidential Villa on 1st November, 2017?
“Our living condition in the region has worsened. The PAP should be allowed to continue for some more time.”
Clark also alleged that most staff of the amnesty programme who are indigenous of the nine Niger Delta states had since been sacked.
He said: “It is alleged that during the time of Prof. Charles Dokubo as PAP Coordinator, people from other regions feasted on the office. He was said to have appointed someone from Kogi State in the name of a consultant, whom it is alleged he is in league with, to employ some unqualified staff. Sons and daughters of the Niger Delta region were sacked or removed from office, particularly the graduates of the programmes, most of who graduated with First Class and Second Class Upper from their various universities. We protested this unjust treatment to the federal government, and the reaction was a communication to us through the then Minister of Budget and Planning, Mr. Udo Udoma. Most of these youths are roaming the streets today, unemployed. This matter will be a subject of discussion on another day. The PAP Office is now filled up with non-Niger Deltans,” Clark added.