Yar'Adua Proposes Security Agency for Niger Delta

THIS DAY Newspaper- Chuks Okocha

Yar'Adua Proposes Security Agency for Niger Delta
•Govs back budgetary provision for rehabilitation of ex-militants
From Chuks Okocha in Abuja with Agency Report,

As the Federal Government prepares for the post-amnesty period, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has asked the National Assembly to approve the creation of a maritime security agency that will protect ships, oil facilities and ports in the Niger Delta region.
This comes as the 36 state governors yesterday supported an extra budgetary provision by the National Assembly to fund the next phase of the amnesty programme which is rehabilitation and re-integration.
THISDAY learnt that the executive arm had already sent a copy of the legislation to the National Assembly last month.
Reuters reported that the agency would give power to coastguard officials to cover a range of responsibilities. They would be authorised to inspect ships, arrest suspects and carry firearms in the region.
They are also expected to provide "security information on oil and gas pipelines, rigs, platforms and all other established ... installations," the report noted
Government expects to raise partial funds for the agency through a 1 per cent levy on annual profits from companies using Nigeria's waterways.
It is expected that the agency which is not a military organisation would help restore trust in the region as well as allow the military to begin withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the 36 state governors have commended the amnesty initiative that led to the laying down of arms by major militants including Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo, Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo and General Boyloaf but stressed the importance of the next phase.
The governors made their views known in a communique issued Monday night in Abuja, under the aegis of the Governors' Forum.
“The Forum agreed that it would give support to efforts by the National Assembly to pass extra budgetary provision to help ex-militants in their efforts to be rehabilitated and re-integrated,” the communique read.
According to the governors, the resolve to commend as well as back the Federal Government follows the prolific presentation made by the Minister of Defence, Gen. Godwin Abbe.
Comments made by South-south governors also convinced the Forum of the necessity to throw its weight behind the government to ensure the success of the remaining part of the programme.
“While noting this historic movement towards peace and reconciliation by the Federal Government which has resulted in the disarmament and demobilization, members called for support for the next phase of this process: rehabilitation and the reintegration. As a mark of solidarity to the Niger Delta, members unanimously resolved to host its next meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State," the Forum said.
The group said new laws that would impose severe sanctions against kidnappers were necessary as a deterrent. It said the amount of kidnapping witnessed across the country deserves the same level of seriousness accorded the amnesty initiative.
In the health sector, the Forum agreed to support efforts to source for funds from local stakeholders and other available funding partners which would help the health ministry in the implementation of a vector control programme designed to eradicate malaria.
They noted the success of the Polio Eradication Campaign, stating that only one Nigerian child had been paralyzed by polio in the past three weeks. It added that the polio distribution in 2008 and 2009 had improved significantly.
The Forum expressed support for the Federal Government’s Midwives Service Scheme (MSS) under the primary healthcare sector, which is designed to address maternal and infant mortality by deploying midwives to healthcare centres around the country.
Furthermore, the Forum noted the clarifications made by the Executive Secretary to the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and agreed that the way forward is for every state to put in place the following: an action plan, the counterpart funding and a functional board. They noted that once all three requirements have been met, the states can access their funds within 24 hours.
On the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike, the governors commended the progress made by the leadership of ASUU and the Federal Government and expressed the belief that strike would be called off shortly.
The governors also disclosed that states are discussing the Teachers’ Salary Structure (TSS) and it is hoped that before the end of the year, all the states would begin to implement the TSS.


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