Post Amnesty: Implementation committees await new leadership

THE PUNCH Newspaper-Fidelis Soriwei

There is a lull in the implementation of the post-amnesty programme following the dissolution and reconstitution of the Executive Council of the Federation by the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

Also, the non-reappointment of Major Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd) to the Ministry of Defence and the cabinet seems to have compounded the wait-and-see attitude of the five implementation committees reconstituted by Jonathan on December 16 last year.

On his assumption of office as the Acting President of the Federation, Jonathan had placed the Niger Delta, especially effective implementation of the post-amnesty programme, on top of his agenda. The other items are the conduct of credible, free and fair elections in 2011and the problem of epileptic electricity supply in the country.

Prior to February 9 when Jonathan assumed presidential powers, the post-amnesty programme was stalled by allegations of misapplication of funds. Although these allegations have not been substantiated, there is a growing call for the auditing of the funds released for the programme.

Apart from the disenchantment with the programme on the part of the repentant militants, especially with regard to delayed payment of their upkeep allowances, other groups in the Niger Delta were almost writing off the well applauded programme.

Many complaints of exclusion from the gains of the programme were buried in the din of the eulogies that followed the end of the voluntary surrendering of arms and ammunition by the militants on October 4.

But by the middle of February, there were ominous signs that the region might be on the path to restiveness again as sporadic attacks on oil installations were recorded in some areas. The most disturbing of such incidents was the detonation of a car bomb, the first of its kind in Nigeria, by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta at the venue of a strategic meeting attended by top government officials from the Presidency, governors and elders of the Niger Delta region in Warri, Delta State.

The time bomb caused two deaths. Reports had it that MEND, which had claimed responsibility for the explosion, said it used the attack to make a statement to governors Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State and Timipre Silva of Bayelsa State, who had always said that the group did not exist.

It was amidst this tell tale signs of lurking hostilities in the region that Jonathan took the decision to make far reaching changes in the earlier committees set up by President Umaru Yar‘Adua.

On December 16, 2009, he had inaugurated five strategic committees whose main objective was to consolidate the gains of the amnesty programme by ensuring the development of the Niger Delta and the actualisation of the desire for economic growth in the country.

While inaugurating the committee, Jonathan did not make pretences about observed hitches in the execution of the amnesty programme as he said that the idea behind the inauguration of a presidential committee and four others was ”to revive” a programme whose implementation was believed to have been stalled by of Yar‘Adua‘s illness and absence from the country.

The committees included the Presidential Committee on the Modalities for the Involvement of Host Communities in the Ownership of Petroleum Assets in Nigeria; Disarmament Rehabilitation and Re-integration Sub-committee; Oil and Gas Asset Protection Sub-committee; Environmental Clean-up Remediation Sub-committee and the Infrastructural Development Sub-committee.

The former arrangement had put the immediate past defence minister, Gen. Abbe, at the helm of affairs of the amnesty programme. Aside from being the Chairman of the Presidential Sub-Committee on Disarmament, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration, Abbe was also chairman of the Amnesty Implementation Committee. Also, ministers of the related ministries were made automatic chairmen of the other sub-committees.

For instance, the mmediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Ufot Ekaette, was the chairman of the sub-committee on Infrastructural Development. Former Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, who is now Minister of Foreign Affairs, was the Chairman of the Sub-committee on Oil and Gas Assets Protection while the former Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey, headed the Environmental Clean-up and Remediation sub-committee.

However, with the dissolution of the cabinet, uncertainty surrounds the leadership of the various sub-committees. It is not clear whether the Acting President who is desperate to sustain the tempo of oil production activities in the Niger Delta would retain the initial arrangement. It is not also certain whether the current Minister of Defence, Mr. Adetokunbo Kayode, would take over the leadership role in the amnesty process played by his predecessor.

While handing over to Kayode, Abbe said the country had made substantial progress in the post-amnesty programme. He disclosed that the economic fortune of the country had increased because of the remarkable improvement in oil production from 700,000 barrels per day at $60 per barrel to about 2.4m bpd at about $80 pb.

It is, therefore, expected that with the desperation of the Federal Government to sustain the peace in the region, there is high possibility that Jonathan would make relevant changes in the post-amnesty implementation process.

Investigation conducted by our correspondent revealed that Jonathan may remove the implementation of the reintegration and rehabilitation of the former militants from the defence ministry. He is said to be more disposed to appointing somebody who is friendly with leaders of the various repentant militant groups and who is abreast of the challenges of development in the area, to drive the process.

Also, it is the view of some leaders of the region that the reintegration and rehabilitation aspects of the programme are not strictly military or security affairs but issues that should involve interplay of factors.

According to the leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Mr. Ledum Mitee, all the stakeholders should be involved in the process. He said that subjecting the process strictly to defence leadership was a product of the tendency to view everything associated with the process from the prism of security.

Mitee, who headed the 45-man technical committee on the Niger Delta, said the implementation of the amnesty programme should take into cognizance the recommendations of the technical committee that a multi-stakeholder approach was required to implement the programme.

He said, ”My view about the so called demobilisation, disarmament, reintegration and rehabilitation, is that while the security agencies can play some key roles, you need a multi-stakeholder approach. You need the communities. You need the religious leaders in the entire process. There are international best practices. It has been done in Liberia, Congo and others. There appears to have been some confusion of trying to see everything from the prism of military security… soldiers, SSS and all that.

”These are civilians and they come from communities. We need a more holistic approach. I also think that the report of the technical committee should be taken into consideration in the implementation. I think, it is not just one ministry, it is not just for the government, you need to get the people involved to get the community to receive these people. I don‘t think we need the Minister of Defence to be the chairman of the process.”

It was also gathered that while the Acting President is still thinking about the changes to make in the post-amnesty programme, there are fears that appointing politicians might be counterproductive. It was further learnt that key players in the region had disagreed over the possible choice of a Niger Delta indigene who had been involved in the development process of the region because of the fears that such an appointee could bring detrimental politics into the implementation of the sensitive programme.

For now, there is an air of uncertainty over the direction of the implementation of the programme as the various key players await the specification of their roles.


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