Scraping Amnesty programme will plunge Nigeria into anarchy, stakeholders warns Buhari Govt

Fighters with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), pictured in 2008. The rebel group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
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on’t scrap Amnesty programme, stakeholders urge Fed Govt

By Simon Utebor, Yenagoa And Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt On Oct 7, 2022

SOME stakeholders in the Niger Delta have cautioned the Federal Government against winding up the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) for ex-agitators.

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They said the alleged plan by the Federal Government to replace the PAP with the pipeline security and surveillance contracs will have consequences.

Urging the govern to pull the brake on the “vexatious plan”, the stakeholders warned that it would trigger another round of agitations and frustrate the campaign against oil theft in the region.

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The stakeholders, made up of traditional rulers, elders, women groups, youth groups and former militant leaders, claimed the swap-PAP-for-crude oil pipeline surveillance contract plan was revealed by the Interim Administrator of PAP, Maj.Gen. Barry Ndiomu during a ‘Presidential Mandate briefing’ with PAP’s employees on Wednesday.

Gen. Ndiomu was quoted as saying that his mandate was to urgently terminate the PAP in exchange for the pipeline surveillance contract.

The PAP’s boss reportedly directed employees at Amnesty Office 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.

In an electronic statement yesterday by High Chief Maxwell Ayamabele, the stakeholders condemned the actions and steps taken so far by Ndiomu, describing his action as “inexperienced, naïve and disrespectful to the region’s monarchs, women groups, youth leaders and ex-militant leaders that participated in the Amnesty process.

Ayamabele also said that the action would not bode well with those who convinced the former militant leaders that are now the founding fathers of PAP and thousands of their foot soldiers to accept the Amnesty offer and signed the Amnesty accord with the Federal Government under the leadership of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.”

They alleged that the statement credited to the PAP boss has created tension across the oil-rich region.

Urging Gen. Ndiomu to clarify his position to douse the tension, they said: “It is unthinkable and inexplicable that the plot is being consummated at the same time the Presidency is utilising billions of naira exploited from the Niger Delta to train and rehabilitate repentant Boko Haram and Islamic States of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists that have killed and maimed thousands of innocent Nigerians with millions of Nigerians displaced.”

Ayamabele advised against the planned reduction in the number of Amnesty beneficiaries in the different camps by almost 50 per cent (from 30,000 to 15,000 ex-militants), stressing that such act would be counter-productive.

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.”

But the Interim Administrator promised ex-agitators and stakeholders to discharge the functions of his office with accountability and transparency.

Speaking during his maiden interactions with some leaders of the ex-agitators, Gen. Ndiomu said henceforth all activities in PAP would be subjected to periodic review in line with the mandate of the programme.

In a statement by his media aide, Thomas Peretu, the PAP boss said he would create new channels to ensure constant dialogue with the programme beneficiaries and stakeholders in the region.

He vowed to pursue a managerial paradigm shift that would dismantle all the challenges hindering the programme and blocking exit routes of trained agitators.

Gen. Ndiomu said the Amnesty programme was designed with an exit route for all trained and empowered ex-agitators.

He said retaining same number of ex-agitators after 13 years of operation was against PAP’s mandate, adding that the government had been magnanimous enough to extend the life span of the programme to allow for peace and harmony in the region.

He, however, appealed to stakeholders to bear in mind that one day the programme would end as it did in other conflict zones, especially in South America.

Gen. Ndiomu, assured that the programme would not be terminated abruptly in the interest of the prevailing peace in the Niger Delta region.

He said: “Maybe someday, the programme may transit or metamorphose into a more robust and sustainable initiative that will take into account the special needs of the people in the face of present dynamics of the region.”