By Olamilekan FAWAS
The Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo, , says the hitherto volatile Niger Delta region has become the most peaceful part of the country ready for economic development.
Dokubo expressed the view in Abuja after meeting with the leaders of the region, adding that the prevailing peace in the region was an indication of the successes so far recorded.
In a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr Bassey Ganagana, the coordinator reiterated his determination to speedily retool the programme by making it more robust to impact former agitators in the region.
He said the ultimate goal of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was to achieve sustainable development in the region.
“I am exceedingly grateful to God Almighty for making this day possible. I have really been looking forward to this family meeting.
“It is not a secret that the programme has since 2010 aided the attainment of relative peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta.
“Today, the region, once noted for its volatility, may be regarded as the most peaceful part of Nigeria.’’
Dokubo said the Amnesty Programme had achieved its core mandate to a reasonable extent.
“The programme has aided the processes of building and sustaining peace and safety in the Niger Delta and the entire Gulf of Guinea.
“I am not saying that we have attained perfection or Eldorado of sorts; I am only saying that the situation would have been far worse in the region and of course for the economy of our dear country.’’
He noted that “prior to the proclamation of unconditional amnesty for former agitators in the Niger Delta in 2009, disruptions in the exploration, processing and export of crude oil almost brought our economy to a standstill.
“Unfortunately, Nigeria’s economy which largely depends on earnings from oil exports, haemorrhaged very badly during this sad era of militancy.
“The situation got so bad that on a particular day in 2008, Nigeria was only able to produce 700,000 barrels of crude oil.”
Dokubo noted that Nigeria was able to meet its current OPEC quota of 2.2 million barrels per day owing to the success of the programme.
“We must all thank, most profusely, the ex-agitators in the Niger Delta, who have continued to keep the peace in accordance with the pact they entered with the Federal Government after accepting the offer of amnesty.
“Kudos must also go to you our traditional, religious, opinion, intellectual and community leaders as well as the leaderships of ethnic nationalities and youth groups in the Niger Delta.
“So, topmost among the reasons why I have called this meeting is to, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria, thank you all.
“I want to thank you most sincerely for the critical roles you have all continued to play either as individuals or group to help sustain and even deepen peace in the Niger Delta.
“I chose to regard the Niger Delta as work-in-progress and I am happy to inform the leaders of the region assembled here that the ultimate goal of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is to achieve sustainable development in all facets of the region.
“The good news is that, speaking about peace, safety and security, I dare say that the Niger Delta is perhaps the most conducive region for development in Nigeria today.”
Dokubo said the office had mapped out its priority, which included the completion and activation of all vocational training centres under construction across the states in the Niger Delta.
He said the step would fast track the training of beneficiaries awaiting skills acquisition and empowerment through the provision of start-up packs as well as mentoring for trained and qualified ex-agitators to become entrepreneurs.
Dokubo said another priority area was the sanitisation of the education department to enable it to make more impact and be cost effective.
He said efforts were being made to “restore the certainty and sanctity of the database of the programme.’’
The coordinator strong steps would be taken to forestall future breaches and to hold regular meetings with critical stakeholders with a view to creating platforms for gainful employment for trained ex-agitators.
However, the leaders of the Niger Delta Have appealed to the Federal Government to release funds allocated to the programme promptly and when due.
They also said training programmes should be reviewed to properly engage the beneficiaries to be employable and called for inclusion of more beneficiaries in the programme through presidential proclamation.
They called for regular stakeholder meetings to reflect the peace currently prevailing and to enhance economic development.
The meeting was attended by traditional rulers, former state governors, community leaders and other critical stakeholders.