By Deji Elumoye
The growing opposition to the reported move by the federal government to scrap the 11-year-old Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) for repentant former Niger Delta militants and other stakeholders received a boost at the weekend with the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, adding his voice against such plan.
This brings to two the number of people who have openly canvassed against the reported plan by the Presidency to scrap the Annesty Programme with effect from December, 2020.
Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, had last week warned government against such move saying scrapping PAP would truncate the restive peace pervading the Niger Delta region.
Omo-Agege, who lent his voice to the issue while playing host in Abuja to a socio-political organization, New Era Forum, called on the Federal Government to shelve alleged plans to scarp the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) for ex-agitators in the Niger Delta region.
Describing the move as premature and ill-timed, the ranking Senator said such move by government will truncate the fragile peace in the region.
His words: “I don’t think that the timing is right for the Amnesty Programme to be scrapped. We have challenges right now in the North East, the ravages of Boko Haram, banditry in North West and North Central. Those are enough challenges already in this country. I don’t believe that this is the time to reawaken the agitations of militancy in the Niger Delta region.
“It is my hope and expectation that the policy makers who are around Mr President will convey this to Mr President that to the extent that there is any such plan at this time, it is premature and ill-timed. That is not to say that this programme must stay in perpetuity. But we don’t believe that the goals set have been completely achieved”.
He urged the group to come up with a new narrative about holding leaders in the region to account adding that leaders in the region have failed, having been unable to judiciously utilise funds released for the development of the region.
“I have been privy to all of the budgetary estimates that were passed both in the Eighth Assembly and in the Ninth Assembly. And all that we are entitled to as a region has been given to us. But we have failed Mr President because we have not been able to hold to account those to whom these resources have been entrusted. You don’t expect Mr President moving from community to community to ensure that the fundings made available to us have been judiciously utilised. It is up to us as the people of the region who cried out to insist that interventionist agencies like NDDC be created for us and properly funded and as a result of the youth agitation in the region that the Amnesty Programme be set up, it is left for us to ask questions that to the extent that the fundings have been released to us how have these been utilised? It is left for us to ensure we identify the projects that we believe will best meet the needs of our people.
“It is not in Mr President’s place to come to my community to tell me what project should be sited in my community to alleviate the challenges we face as a result of environmental degradation and oil exploration. It is in the place of my community to come to Mr President through these agencies to say this is our priority. And having provided those funds, it is left for us to get back to Mr President either through the National Assembly or the security agencies to say these are the projects that were provided in our communities but not implemented.
So Mr President has done his part, we are the ones that have failed our people”, he stated.
Speaking earlier, Leader of New Era Forum, Sunday Onyewonsa, called for a security summit that will fashion out solutions to challenges facing the region, even as he stressed the need to declare a state of emergency on Niger Delta roads.
Chief Clark had last Monday while kicking against the planned scrapping of the Amnesty Programme warned the Federal Government, to desist from doing anything that will truncate the fragile peace that is prevalent now in the Niger Delta region.
He stated that his advise was premised on information at his disposal that a panel set up by the federal government to look into the activities of the Amnesty Programme had recommended the scrapping of the programme with effect from December, 2020.
The former federal Commissioner for Information 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, Major General Babagana Mohammed 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”.