Niger Delta economic discourse series
Sir: At its last Niger Delta Economic Discourse Series, put together by management of GbaramatuVoice Newspaper on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, participants, drawn from the academia, members of specialised groups, presidential amnesty beneficiaries, students at various institutions of higher learning in the country among others, proffer solution to Niger Delta challenge.
With the theme: Presidential Amnesty Programme and Proposed Modular Refineries, the gathering queried the Federal Government current non-participatory approach to development in the region, as well as its protracted inabilities to embrace a broad-based consultative approach that will give the people of the Niger Delta some sense of ownership over their own issues.
While noting that the challenges confronting the Niger Delta as a region dates back to the 15th century, the gathering submitted that to effectively resolve the Niger Delta crisis, the government and other Nigerians should begin to see the problem of the Niger Delta as a national one and not restricted to the region.
Participants were particularly not happy that greed, selfishness, tribalism and brazen absence of political will arising from poor leadership in the country, has become potent factors that derailed the well-conceived Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) created to tackle youth restiveness resulting from galloping unemployment in the region as well as hindered the actualisation of Federal Government proposed but now abandoned modular refineries in the region.
Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi.
They further regretted that 13 years after the presidential proclamation, the programme has neither dealt with the fundamentals of the Niger Delta struggle nor faithfully addressed the three pillars of the Amnesty Programme: Disarmament, rehabilitation and reintegration; but painfully left the targeted beneficiaries of the programme more as victims of political deceit and manipulation by selfish politicians and other non-state actors that have recently hijacked the programme. While they observed that the amnesty programme had become a cesspool of corruption and avenues for revenue leakages which must be blocked for efficient management of the programme, the group argued that the Presidential Amnesty Office must stop giving handouts to beneficiaries and in its place develop a workable and democratised roadmap that will ensure that all amnesty beneficiaries are gainfully employed or adequately empowered. The gathering, therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to strengthen PAP to achieve its original Strategic Implementation Action Plan designed to massively develop the Niger Delta, which fortunately has been ignored for a very long time by the Federal Government.
Noting that for the challenges presently confronting the region to be frontally tackled, Federal Government must take both practical and pragmatic steps to hold a sincere conversation with Niger Deltans aimed at operationalising modular refineries in the region anchored on the tripod of receipt system, transparent pricing and supervised via a statutory body established by enabling acts for that purpose/objective.
Finally, they praised GbarmatuVoice for providing such a formidable and viable platform for periodic discussion of socioeconomic interests geared towards moving the Niger Delta region out of the woods.
Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi.