By GbaramatuVoice Editorial Board
When President Umaru Yar’adua in August, 2009, offered an unconditional pardon and cash payment to agitators who agree to lay down their arms and assemble at screening centres over the next sixty days, that was meant to achieve a particular deal.
And that deal by the Nigerian government for militants in the Niger Delta was aimed at reducing unrest in the oil rich region.
Fortunately, that has been running smoothly since the said date. Not even the demise of President Umaru Yar’adua could get it derailed as President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan religiously followed up under the watchful eye of Kingsley Kukuh as the Coordinator.
But very recently, with the change of guard in leadership, the smooth operation has become a thing of the past with the handlers accused of highhandedness.
However, Nigerians were told on May 6, 2017, that by the new understanding between the Federal Government and the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta, the President Buhari’s administration has released additional N35 billion to step-up the Amnesty programme in the region.
Again, on September 10, GbaramatuVoice listened with rapt attention to the Rtd Brig. Gen. Paul Boroh, the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, saying that no fewer than five million people in the Niger Delta region have benefited from the initiative since 2009.
But with the recent protest on Thursday November 2, 2017 at the National Assembly Complex by the agitators, points to one fact, that fact is that there is an information gap somewhere.
Also, within 24 hours of this protest, the Niger Delta Avengers has called off their ceasefire agreement with the Federal Government and have resolved to go back to full blown hostility in the region.
GbaramatuVoice as a responsive media group with its operational base in the Niger Delta region, are left with no other option than to raise these issues that have been bordering both the supposed beneficiaries of the amnesty programme and the entire region.
First, if the Federal Government did release the N35 billion to step up the programme in the region as claimed by the President, the people of the region would like to know who the beneficiaries were.
We make this demand as our office is inundated with telephone calls and visits by the supposed beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme complaining of being abandoned by the Federal Government.
We have also received complaints from people that reported at the camp, screened and issued identification and that was all; no training, no allowance and no stipend.
In the same vein, we have interviewed some who complained that they were mobilized for the training but were abandoned midway into the training; again without allowance and the promised stipends.
To support this claim, as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), we recently reported a story of a participant that was sent to Sri Lanka to learn boat building but was denied of his allowance. As we are writing this piece, he is supposed to have received an amount well above N6million based on what he was told at the beginning but nothing is been paid to him as we speak.
The agricultural programme which formed part of the reintegration plan is not spared of criticism as the factional President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Barr. Eric Omare while participating in GbaramatuVoice programme tagged; Focus-On-Niger-Delta, explained that the handling of the programmes is signposted in secrecy.
So, with all these cries of abandonment by the people of Niger Delta while the FG is insisting that they have not defaulted on their part, it will be important that they tell the general public the names, physical addresses and possibly the telephone numbers of the purported beneficiaries of the N35billion as released by the federal government.
GbaramatuVoice as an organization that has freely taken it upon itself to educate the masses through symmetrical information dissemination is also concerned about the numbers of beneficiaries as released by Brig. Gen. Paul Boroh (retd), the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
We raised this particular concern because we have followed this Amnesty programme from inception and can easily situate a gap between the figures as released by the Coordinator and the real figure in the public domain.
From the above, as enumerated, it is our view that the Federal Government should look into the grievances of those that participated in the programme in the interest of peace and the national economic prosperity.
Furthermore, based on the resumption of hostilities by the Niger Delta Avengers, which is one of the effects of the poor handling of the Amnesty programme, it is our objectified view that the Federal Government calls for negotiation with the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
The complaint about nonpayment of allowances and stipends of the Amnesty programme participants as alleged should be investigated also.
In addition to the above, is the need to appoint people from the Niger Delta region who have been with their people, who feel the pulse of the participants and the needs of the people as part of the Amnesty programme handlers.
Finally, the allegation that Brig. Gen. Boroh led administration is lacking in transparency should equally be investigated; their books audited and anyone found culpable should be handed over to the appropriate authorities for further questioning.