International community fears renewed violence in N'Delta

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Fidelis Soriwei

The international community is deeply worried over the slow pace of implementing the post-amnesty programme and fears renewed violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

At a roundtable held in the United States recently, representatives of some international bodies also expressed concern that discordant tunes from the political class ahead of the 2011 general election were disturbing for the peace and progress of Nigeria.

Present at the roundtable were Mr. Princeton Lyman of Council of Foreign Relations; David Smock of the US Institute of Peace; Judi Asuni (USIP); Peter Lewis of the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; and Deidre Lapin of the University Pennsylvania.

Others who attended the discussion were Akwe Amosu of the Open Society Institute; Aaron Sayne of the Trans-national Crisis Project; Richard Downey (Centre for Strategic and international Studies); Nate Haken of Fund for Peace; and Mary Ella Keblesek of the Niger Delta Professionals for development.

The leaders and representatives of the various organisations were said to have expressed reservation over the slow pace of implementation of the post-amnesty programme of the Federal Government.

A source who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said the foreign bodies urged the Federal Government to look in the direction of immediate commencement of youth training and creation of employment opportunities for the youths outside the oil industry. They said the oil industry alone would not be able to do much in terms of employment generation for the teeming population of the unemployed youths and ex-militants who are undergoing skill-acquisition trainings.

A source who attended the roundtable said the bodies who were worried by the tell tale signs of the possibility of renewed violence in the Niger Delta region urged the Federation Government to take a survey on the environment with emphasis on spill sites, and exploit the remediation activities to generate employment for the youths.

It was further gathered that fears were expressed that some of the governors of the South-South region who had given the position of Special Adviser to the repentant militant leaders, could exploit them to pursue their political ambition in the region. Also, a source conversant with the recurrent crisis in the region said the government had a responsibility to take the measures to frustrate any likelihood or drift to crisis in the region.

The source said, however, that in spite of the observed hitches, majority of the ex-militants were opposed to a return to the creeks to take up arms against the government.

The ex-militants were said to be angered by the revocation of contracts awarded to their leaders by the Niger Delta Development Commission strategically put in place to empower the militants who were agitating over paucity of funds after surrendering their weapons.

But the Nigerian Ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti, Mrs. Nkoyo Toyo, who was secretary to the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta, said there was still the high hope that steps could be taken to make up for the time which was lost to the recent political crisis.

She said the post-amnesty programmes would be more effective if the governors and other actors were brought in to play some roles.

Nkoyo who spoke in an exclusive interview with our correspondent on Thursday said the distance between the Federal Government and the states and the emergent bottlenecks might have played some role in the complaints about the programme.

”This is a difficult question because I have not been around to assess it on a day to day basis. I definitely know that the country has benefited significantly from the calmness we are seeing in the region. But I think we should also be wary of that uneasiness that is beginning to seep into the polity.

”A lot more has to be done; there is no doubt about that and a lot more needs to be done. My fear is that may be now, we are beginning to see the weakness of making it a national agenda…

”How can we re-engineer this state of limbo and get it out it. So I am saying in effect that we expected a lot more to be in place by now and we hope that that will happen in spite of all the difficulties of our recent political history.”


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