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Reps, stakeholders meet on amnesty programme

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 Udom Emmanuel

Udom Emmanuel

Stakeholders yesterday met to review the successes of Federal Government’s amnesty programme on rehabilitation and reintegration of former militants in the Niger Delta.

At a one-day public hearing on a bill for an Act to establish the programme in the region, organised by House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, the stakeholders said rather than aiming at pardoning and reintegrating former agitators, the programme has failed to strategically engage the youths years after the creation of the presidential amnesty programme by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Some of them also faulted the inability of the co-ordinating unit to effect prompt payment of allowances to repentant agitators and carry out local needs’ assessment to determine the types of training for them and where they would be engaged thereafter.

The stakeholders, however, agreed on the need to institute a legal frame-work for the implementation of the plan, but disagreed on the various processes that had been adopted by government in rolling out the programme. They called for a more engaging approach to execute the programme.

Governors Udom Emmanuel and Ifeanyi Okowa of Akwa Ibom and Delta states respectively raised concerns on the plan by the legislature to legalise the programme. They lamented the inability of Federal Government to involve them actively in the amnesty implementation.

According to Okowa, represented by a former member of the House, Pascal Adigwe, the states in the region and oil companies operating therein are central to the execution of the programme.

Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Niger Delta Affairs, Apostle Samuel Ekah, who represented Emmanuel, lamented partial inclusion of Akwa Ibom State’s former agitators in the amnesty plan.

In his address, House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, empathised with the communities in the region, saying that the Niger Delta had over the years not benefitted much from the proceeds of oil despite the environmental hazards they had been subjected to.

Dogara, represented by the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Chukwuma Onyema, said: “We are all aware that our great country Nigeria is an oil-producing state with the Niger Delta region responsible for more than 80 per cent of her oil.

“The region has over the years not benefitted much from the proceeds of oil extracted from the region instead their farmlands and water have become an environmental mess leaving them with no means of eking out a living.”

Other stakeholders who contributed to the bill included Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Presidential Committee on Amnesty and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).



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