Niger Delta stakeholders have described as ‘unreasonable’ and ‘vexatious’ the plan by the federal government to substitute the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) with the crude oil pipeline contract recently awarded to the former militant leaders from the region.
They instead warned that the plan will trigger another rounds of agitation and frustrate the campaign against oil theft in the region.
The stakeholders, made up of traditional rulers, elders, women groups, youth groups, former militant leaders and stakeholders from across the nine states of the Niger Delta region, said the plan to swap the Amnesty Programme for crude oil pipeline surveillance contract was revealed by the Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Major General Barry Tariye Ndiomu (rtd.), during a “Presidential Mandate briefing” with employees of the Presidential Amnesty Programme on October 5, 2022 at the Sheraton Resort, Abuja.
According to the stakeholders, Ndiomu was quoted at saying that his mandate was to urgently terminate the PAP in exchange for the pipeline surveillance contract, and he directed the staff of the PAP to immediately commence the process of winding-down the PAP prior to the expiration of his tenure on March 1, 2023; approximately 90 days before the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure of May 29, 2023.
The stakeholders in a statement issued via mail and signed by High Chief Maxwell Ayamabele, condemned the actions and steps taken so far by Major General Ndiomu, terming his action as “inexperienced, naïve, and disrespectful to all traditional rulers, women groups, youth leaders and former militant leaders that participated in the Amnesty process, and those who convinced the former militant leaders that are now the founding fathers of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, and thousands of their foot-soldiers to accept the amnesty offer, and signed the amnesty accord with the federal government under the leadership of our dearly beloved and enormously missed President, Late Umaru Musa Yar’adua.”
According to the stakeholders, “Since Gen. Ndiomu’s appointment, the smooth operations of the Amnesty programme has shattered; causing serious tension across the region due to Ndiomu’s so called presidential mandate to urgently terminate the Amnesty programme in exchange for the pipeline surveillance contract. Gen. Ndiomu failed to meet with the relevant stakeholders that fought for the establishment of the Presidential Amnesty Programme to brief them and the people in the region about the reasons behind his plans to urgently terminate a programme that directly and indirectly benefits over a million families across the Niger Delta region.
“While at the same time, the presidency is utilising billions of naira exploited from the Niger Delta region to train and rehabilitate repentant Boko Haram terrorists, and Islamic States of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists that have killed and maimed thousands of innocent Nigerians while millions of Nigerians are displaced by the actions of these terrorists. May we remind Ndiomu that upon President Muhammadu Buhari assuming office in 2015, and without wasting anytime, in July 2015, the Federal Government obtained a $2.1 billion USD credit from the World Bank to rebuild the North-East zone devastated by their so-called repentant Boko-Haram terrorists, and Islamic States of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists that have killed and maimed thousands of innocent Nigerians with millions of Nigerians displaced by the actions of these terrorists.
“Since then, the Presidency has continued to spend billions of dollars more in the North-Eastern region that financially contributes almost zero to our nation’s treasury. Whereas the Presidential Amnesty Programme that have contributed to the unity of Nigeria, sustained the peace in the Niger Delta region with increased volumes of oil and gas production, and assisted the federal government in generating excess revenues of over $300billion USD from the sales of oil and gas products within the past twelve years has not seen the amount of money that has been poured into the North-Eastern region since the inception of the PAP.”
Ayamabele further cautioned Gen. Ndiomu (rtd.) to desist from his plan to forcefully reduce the number of Amnesty beneficiaries in the different camps by almost 50 percent; from 30,000 ex-militants to 15,000, stating that such an illegal act will surely be resisted, and it will be seen as a fraudulent ploy to enable Gen. Ndiomu to reallocate the monthly stipend payments to thousands of legitimate Amnesty beneficiaries for himself prior to leaving office.
He cautioned Gen. Ndiomu (rtd.) against “allowing himself to be used against his own people to perform an impossible, dead-on-arrival plan,” stating that “all ex-militants and stakeholders across the nine states of the region will use every means necessary to resist him and the presidency’s plan during the remaining few months of their administration.”
He said, “millions of youths across the region are waiting to be included in any new Amnesty Programme. Therefore it is in the interest of the federal government to sustain this affordable peace, instead of scrapping this cost effective peace for an unknown alternative that might cost twenty to fifty times more.”
It would be recalled that the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Council of Traditional Rulers and the Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, King Bubaraye Dakolo – Agada IV, and the 2nd Vice President of the Umbrella body of Ijaw Elders, Ijaw National Congress (INC), Chief Nengi James Eriworio had kicked against the scrapping of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), declaring that the PAP should be sustained so that the youths of the region will have more opportunity to be trained and empowered to become useful citizens from the region.
His Majesty, King Dakolo and Chief Nengi James Eriworio both stated that there might be some devastating effects that an abrupt termination of the PAP will cause in the region, the national economy, and challenges to national security, including possibly destabilising the 2023 presidential elections in the region.