In this first phase of interview with the President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, Barr. Oweilaemi Pereotubo Roland speaks on the Presidential Amnesty Programme on GbaramatuVoiceTV programme tagged Focus on Niger Delta, he said that the authorities have been on the Rehabilitation stage, which is stage two of the three levels of amnesty programme over ten years, and they are just playing politics with it. Oweilaemi said that if you are an experienced person and you try to advice them, they will say you belong to an opposition party. He cried out that the amnesty office was not formed on political bases, it was formed as a result of the genuine agitation of the people of the Niger Delta but today we play politics. His voiced resonated that politicians have chosen to play politics with the blood and the lives of the Niger Delta people, and until politicians stop playing politics with it, we will never get it right,
Can you please give a brief overview of what led to the presidential amnesty programme?
Thank you very much. It is my pleasure to be here. And I want to use this opportunity to congratulate GbaramatuVoice for its anniversary in Abuja. I was invited to be there but because of some other state functions, I couldn’t make it. So, I want to also use this medium to render my apologies. I can see that GbaramatuVoice is waxing stronger by the day.
Coming to the introduction of what led to the Presidential Amnesty Programme, the Niger Delta people particularly, the Ijaw people, have been marginalized. Before 2009, there were agitations and all forms of anger and all the Ijaw people were angry, and they felt that the only way to get out of it was to resolve to self-help. And they said that we cannot be part of a county called Nigeria and we have the resources and we are not part of it. But the government paid deaf ears to that and the people started going rampage, vandalizing pipelines and all that. But luckily for us, we had a God fearing president: late President Yar’Adua (may his soul rest in peace), who was deputized by our own son as the vice president of this country, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Yar’Adua said “I am the president of this country and anything that goes wrong I am responsible for it so I think that it is important for us to talk to the Niger Delta people”, and the president put up structures in place to try and talk to the Niger Delta people. So Goodluck was given clear instruction to go and talk to his people in order to understand what their challenges were. Goodluck came and we had several meetings and that was how we got the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
For ten years now the programme has been initiated, what has been the prospect and challenges of this programme?
It is unfortunate that though we say government is a continuum, the Nigerian government is not a continuum. Anybody that comes in as president and leaves, the incoming president will not be willing to continue from where his predecessor stopped. Yar’Adua had laudable ideas and gave birth to the presidential amnesty program. The program was in three segments; the first phase was the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration. That simply means, bring the boys out from the creeks, and the boys agreed even though some of them were very reluctant, particularly our hero Tompolo was very reluctant and he was made to accept the program under duress by Goodluck and Elder Orubebe. The first stage was demobilization; bring the out, disarmament; take the guns from them and reintegrate them; make them have a place in society. And they all reluctantly accepted, willingly came out and surrendered all their weapons, as at that time it was difficult for the Nigeria state to overrun the Niger Delta people spear headed by the Ijaw people. But because we believe in one Nigeria, the boys by the appeal and intervention of some leaders like Pa Clark and others, brought out everything, that was the first phase.
Then the second phase of the entire amnesty program was rehabilitation. What is rehabilitation here? These people were traumatized, they had been in the forest, in the sea, didn’t live normal again, and did certain things. So the rehabilitation was to bring these people back to society, talk to them, find out their mental capacity, know if some of them were already schooled; and those that were not schooled, put them through school, and those that don’t want to go to school, find a trade for them. Of course, you don’t expect everybody to go to the university. The best brains in the world are people that dropped out from the university. But this does not translate to neglecting university.
Sir, looking at the reintegration process, what are those processes that were in the blueprint?
The reintegration was for them to come out and talk to them and try and make them normal. Rehabilitation is where we are now, some of them have gone to school locally and abroad. Some of them are schooling in Nigeria, some of them are captured in the system but the system have been politicized and nothing is happening to them. Politicians have chosen to play politics with the blood and the lives of the Niger Delta people, and until politicians stop playing politics with it, we will never get it right.
Now you talked about the three fold of the amnesty program; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Do you think only these packages were what was contained in the blueprint of the amnesty program? Because there was this agitation for development.
Now demobilization, disarmament and reintegration is in stage one. These three A, B, C is in stage one. That is bringing out the boys and the boys came out willingly. The moment you bring the boys out of the forest and you take the guns from them, that A, B and C part is being taken care of.
We have been on the rehabilitation stage which is stage two for over ten years, and they are just playing politics with it. If you are an experienced person and you try to advice them, they will say you belong to an opposition party. The amnesty office was not formed on political bases, it was formed as a result of the genuine agitation of the people of the Niger Delta, but today we play politics. So we are dabbling around the second stage now for the past ten years, rehabilitation goes beyond giving somebody starter packs, it goes beyond giving somebody one umbrella and three chairs to sell recharge cards. It is dangerous for you to train somebody on how to fly a plane and you don’t give him a plane to fly. Any plane that guy gets on his way he will fly that plane and crash it somewhere because he does not have a future, and that is what the Nigerian government has done to the Niger Delta and it is very dangerous.
The third stage we are talking about strategic implementation plan. Nobody has done anything about that, that stage has been abandoned. Timi Alaibi was the first pioneer SA to that office. He set the stage and set the ball rolling, he exited and gave it to one of our finest Kingsley Kuku who was part of the struggle and the process so he did his best, and I am sure that Kingsley Kuku left with the amnesty office.
Looking at the explanation you have just given, from the first phase of the amnesty program what was achieved followed by the second phase?
For me there is no achievement here. They just merely deceived the boys to drop their guns but are not doing the right things for them. Some persons came out and agreed to this because of the third component, particularly Tompolo. I know that the whole amnesty program was delayed because Tompolo didn’t believe in it. It was as if he knew that it was not going to work, until he was prevailed on by Goodluck, Orubebe and others. Tompolo was passionate about the development of the Niger Delta people and not about seventy thousand naira stipend. That is seventy thousand naira compared to oil they get from there.
The Presidential Amnesty has been a major issue to the Niger Delta people. There was a blueprint for the totality of the program aside giving them stipends. What is that blueprint?
It is in the second stage which is rehabilitation. They were to go to school, they were to acquire one form of skill or the other and absorb them. It wasn’t just to train them. It is very dangerous to train and abandon people in the street.
Was there no visible implementation strategy?
When you bring them, drop their arms that is the first stage, which is A, B and C. Then the second stage which is rehabilitation, which means let them go to school, teach them how to trade. The one’s that had gone to school, there was a plan to employ them by government or by IOCs and that has failed. There is no body that has gone for one training or the other that is successfully employed today.
What do you think will happen for those who have acquired this knowledge and are not fully empowered or engaged?
For those that have acquired some sort of skills or the other that are not gainfully employed is like the country is sitting on a keg of gun powder.
You said, ‘the country is sitting on a keg of gun powder.’ What do you mean?
Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder because they have asked all the agitators to come out and drop their arms, and because some elders interfered, they boys did. Some have been sent to the university and some were given skill acquisition, but the second stage includes absorbing them after training. So you have trained these people and you have not given them something to do and they have seen all of it in the country, in the world. They know everything, they can fly anything, they can pilot a ship, they can do all sort of things. Even the pipeline vandalization they were doing in a very crude way, they can now do it in a better way because they have been exposed.
What I call on the government to do, is to ensure that all these people that have been trained, they should find a way to absorb them or if they can’t be absorbed, they should find a way to checkmate them to ensure that they are living decently; that is the only way we can go out of this problem.
For us, after Kingsley Kuku as the Special Adviser to the president on Niger Delta and the Amnesty program, the entire program has been derailed and is a colossal failure.
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