Rehabilitated militants have no hands in renewed Niger Delta bombings- Kuku

2012-02-11
THE SUN Newspaper- Ikenna Emewu

Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, has always been vehement in saying that his office has done so much for the nation’s safety and earnings through oil.

Speaking with on Thursday, in Abuja, he outlined what his office has done, in the past years, to rehabilitate and reform the ex-militants. He is, however, not happy that some people have alleged that the renewed Niger Delta hostilities are carried out by some of the people who have been reformed through the presidential amnesty, under his supervision.

Would you call the amnesty programme that reforms former Niger Delta militants under your watch a success?
I am happy this question arose now, and I make bold to state, with due sense of humility, that the presidential amnesty plan has been the most successful step the government ever took. In fact, the success of the project is noticeable in every turn we take. It does not take long to see the facts of the success. Following the completion of their non-violence training and career classification in camps in Obubra, Cross River and Akodo, Lagos, the amnesty office has successfully placed 7, 395 former combatants in skills acquisition/training centres as well as in formal education within the country and overseas. Of this number, 3,078 are being trained overseas, while 4,317 are undergoing either formal education or skill acquisition within the country. Similarly, 12, 067 transformed ex-combatants are about to be deployed to reintegration centres to pursue either formal education or vocational training.

The Amnesty Programme’s beneficiaries are today in 33 local training centres in 12 states of the federation, while the 3, 357 ex-agitators on oversea training in skills acquisition are in the United States of America, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Malaysia, Israel, Sri Lanka, India, Benin Republic, Cyprus, Poland, Ghana, Belarus, United Arab Emirates, The Philippines as well as Trinidad and Tobago. More of the trainees are due to be deployed to skill acquisition facilities in Greece, Germany, Canada and England.

With the completion of the full demobilisation of the 26, 358 ex-combatants enrolled in the first and second phases of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, our great nation entered history books as one of the few countries in the world that achieved a successful closure to the disarmament and demobilisation phases of its DDR Programme. Virtually all the 24 United Nations-piloted DDR interventions in Africa, since 1992 are still battling to achieve full demobilization, even with huge financial and technical assistance from the United Nations and several other international partners. Some of the nations still battling to exit the demobilisation phase of their DDR programmes include Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Given the successes of the DDR programmes in Nigeria and Burundi, there is currently a global push to transfer all such programmes from the United Nations and other international agencies to national governments, just like is currently the case in Nigeria. All these I have stated are facts that are not in dispute. So I boldly say that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has done the nation and its posterity great service for the handling of the amnesty project through funding and other supports.

You all know that I am familiar with all levels of non-violent struggles in the Niger Delta from my student days and I say it boldly that although there are still pockets of discontent among the people, the project has done much even in financial gains to the country.

So what are the financial gains you mentioned?
That is a very good question. I will forever assert that the target of restoring peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta, using the instrumentalities of the Amnesty Programme, has been reasonably met; and as a result, the nation’s economy has rebounded. From a production level of a paltry 700,000 barrels of crude oil per day as at first week of January 2009, the relative peace that now prevails in the Niger Delta has aided the remarkable growth of Nigeria’s oil production to between 2.5 and 2.6 million barrels per day as at today. Let us not forget that the proclamation of amnesty for former agitators in the Niger Delta as well as the successful management of the post-amnesty programme saved the economy of Nigeria from a looming collapse. Today, from NNPC data, Nigeria is producing between 2.4 and 2.6 million barrels of crude oil per day, as against the abysmally low 700,000 barrels per day at the peak of the Niger Delta crisis in January 2009. We are currently making production savings of 1.9 million barrels per day for our beloved country. If you compute this savings with the prevailing exchange rate of N160 to a dollar, daily production savings for Nigeria stands at N33.4b per day. If you break this down further especially given that oil production in Nigeria hovered between 2.4 and 2.6 barrels for the whole of 2011, you would find that savings for Nigeria for year ending 2011 is not less than N6 trillion.

But for the Amnesty Proclamation and the successful management of the post-Amnesty Programme by President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria would have lost by that same amount or even more last year. Do I need to go further to assert that the Amnesty office has been of enormous economic gains to the nation. And given that great record, it inconceivable that the same people who are now proud partners in the growth of the nation would turn around to start another round of economic sabotage. It just not possible.

What is the role of rehabilitated militants in the new spate of bombings in the Niger Delta MEND claims responsibility for?
The renewed attacks in the Niger Delta by a group that claims to be the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), especially on oil installations, is condemnable and I have to say it boldly that my people – the ones rehabilitated under my supervision have no hands in the attacks. They have been gainfully employed by the agencies where they trained. They have gained a re-think on the approach to making their grievances known. I dare say that these men are re-branded and very different from the persons they used to be while in the creeks as militants. There is none of them that resort to violence any longer to settle scores. Remember that these men did not just gain or acquire skills, but also a different orientation about life generally.
The Amnesty office is currently pursuing with profound vigour, the reintegration of the already demobilised 26,358 Niger-Delta ex-agitators enrolled in the amnesty programme.

I am happy you heard the House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the Presidential Amnesty Programme. As I learnt, the resolution followed a motion on the floor of the House by a member from Ekiti State. Like most discerning and well-meaning Nigerians, I totally appreciate the concern and interest of this member and his highly esteemed colleagues in the House of Representatives, in the consolidation of peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta. But I am slightly worried that the House may have misconstrued the mandate of the Presidential Amnesty Programme as enshrined in the Amnesty Proclamation.

I am aware of the unfortunate attack on Agip facilities in Bayelsa State and the threat by these persons who claim to be operatives of MEND to attack again, the facilities of a number of multinational corporations operating in the Niger Delta. My office promptly condemned this unconscionable and needless attack on the Agip facility and this was widely publicised in the media. We made it abundantly clear that we remained confident in the ability of the nation’s security agencies and Armed Forces to tackle security challenges in the Niger Delta as well as other parts of Nigeria. The truth of the matter is that the Amnesty Office is not a security agency. The Amnesty Office does not have the powers, competence or wherewithal to stop any person who willfully decides to commit crime in the Niger Delta. We neither have guns nor ammunition. We do not even have handcuffs here. In fact, the Presidential Amnesty Programme does not have a security component at all.

Our mandate is very clear: Disarm, rehabilitate and reintegrate the 26, 358 former Niger Delta agitators who accepted the offer of amnesty in two phases before the elapse of the deadline given by the Federal Government. Pursuant to this mandate, the Amnesty Office, aided by gallant officers and men of our armed forces, pursued a very successful disarmament campaign and huge cache of arms and ammunition was submitted by the ex-agitators, prior to their being admitted into the post-amnesty programme as I explained earlier.
So, I make it clear for the last time that nobody among the people rehabilitated by the amnesty office has any hand in the renewed criminals attacks on any facility either in the Niger Delta or elsewhere.

 

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