The Federal Government’s Amnesty Programme was introduced by the late former President Umaru Yar’Adua for the Niger Delta militants who were in the creeks, disrupting and vandalizing oil installations. Although some of them have benefited and are still benefiting from the programme which the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has equally embraced, some of the ex-militants have continued to lament over the issue of poor funding and delay in the payment of their allowances.
In 2008, the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced an amnesty programme which offered opportunities to the youths of the Niger Delta to get involved in various trainings skills acquisation, as a way of improving and turning their minds off from militant activities. The programme was welcomed by many in the region as it brought peace in the area.
After accepting the amnesty extended to them they were referred to as ex-militants, while their leaders became known as ‘Generals’, even as a monthly stipends of N65,000 were being paid to them for their upkeep.
However, these stipends which comes in form of allowances do not come regularly which sometimes make the boys to threaten going back to the creeks, but are most times stopped by their leaders (the ‘Generals’) who often times play a major role in settling disputes amongst them.
Last week, the leaders sent a protest letter to the Minister of FInance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun over what they described as reluctance by the Ministry to release the 2016 supplementary budgetary allocation meant for the Presidential Amnesty program, saying the non-remittance of the fund is creating sense of frustration among the Amnesty beneficiaries and the ongoing Peace process.
The Ex-Militant Leaders, under the umbrella body of Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (LPCDI), said though the Ministry hold the legal right of allocating funds as directed under the Federal Government, the ex-militant leaders unanimously resolved to re-echo their earlier call on the Minister of Finance to promptly release the 2016 supplementary budgetary allocation meant for the Presidential Amnesty program.
The Militant Leaders, after an emergency meeting held on Wednesday 22nd March 2017 in Yenagoa,Bayelsa State,presided over by the President, Chief Reuben C. Wilson also known as ‘General’ Pastor resolved that the Minister of finance should promptly release the said funds for the effective and efficient management of the program, “This is to strengthen the on-going efforts of the Federal Government to enthrone lasting peace in the Niger Delta region.
“The President is working tirelessly to foster peace and development in the region. Therefore, the prompt release of the funds will go a long way in strengthening the efforts of the President towards enthronement peace and stability in the Niger Delta. The delay in payment of stipends to beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty program will greatly negate the current efforts of the Federal Government in enthroning peace in the region. It is pertinent to note that the Presidential Amnesty program is a great contributor to the current peace prevailing in the region.
“The Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative is greatly concerned about the current state of lack of funds in the amnesty office to carry out its programs which are designed to permanently eradicate restiveness in the Niger Delta region for the betterment of the entire country. At the moment students under the presidential amnesty program studying abroad are about to be sent back home because of failure to pay school fees and accommodation
“It will be very shameful that these students will be sent back home because of inability of the presidential amnesty office to pay their bills due to the non-release of the balance sum of its 2016 supplementary budget by the Ministry of Finance.
“The leadership is worried because if the current trend of delayed payment of stipends and school fees for the beneficiaries of the Amnesty Program continues, there could be breach of peace in the region and a lack of confidence in the presidential amnesty program, which will be inimical to the economic stability of the nation.
“As stake holders who truly want the accelerated development of the Niger Delta, we wouldn’t want such to happen because of its negative consequences on both the region and the Nation. Any one or group of persons that do not consider the importance of the Presidential amnesty Program in the peace building process of the region is an enemy of the Nation. Such person or group of persons do not also mean well for the administration of President Mohammadu Buhari,as the economic prosperity and development of the Nation still largely depends on the peace in the Niger Delta.
“Therefore, we are calling for the immediate release of the balance sum of the 2016 supplementary budgetary allocation meant for the Presidential Amnesty office to avert any situation that will warrant beneficiaries of the program going to the streets to protest and barricade roads, as such will negatively impact on the progress made so far by this administration to engender the accelerated development of the region in particular, and the nation at large.
“We are also using this medium to thank President Mohammadu Buhari for the Love he has shown to the Niger Delta people by working assiduously to enthrone peace and development in the region. We are calling on all well-meaning Nigerians to join us in working tirelessly across the Niger Delta to enthrone peace so that the present administration will be able to achieve its policies and programs for the betterment of Nigeria.”