Presidential Amnesty Programme should be managed by villagers – IYC president

By Enaibo Asiayei & Badmus Shina

In this concluding part of the interview with the President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, Barr. Oweilaemi Pereotubo Roland on the Presidential Amnesty Programme on GbaramatuVoiceTV programme tagged Focus on Niger Delta, he questions why the amnesty office should be situated in Abuja, leaving the locals to their fate.

In the totality of the program, what do you think went wrong?

What went wrong is that politicians choose to play politics with the lives and blood of the Ijaw people and the Niger Delta people. When that office was created the people who were to run it were not to be appointed based on political parties. But today anybody that must man that office must belong to one political party or the other, and from that point you have missed it. That has nothing to do with political party. What government should do is to make sure that they appoint people. It is not how highly educated you are for crying out loud, as a matter of fact, that office should be managed by the people from the village who were part of the process. So the government has failed by politicizing that office, and that is the beginning of the problem.

Also read: Presidential Amnesty Programme: FG deceived ex-Niger Delta militants to drop their guns -IYC president 

There are claims that some people partaking in the amnesty program are not part of it, while the key actors are on the street without been engaged. How true is that?

All that is part of the problem. Most of the people that were actually captured and keyed into the program are still roaming the streets. I talk to them everyday as President of Ijaw Youth Council. Some of them tell me that they are in one university in the Niger Delta, and they have been there since the beginning of this year and they have not received any kind of support from the amnesty office. But the challenge is that each time they try to get across to the amnesty office to lay the complaint, they will call them one name or the other. Before now the President of IYC or any stakeholder of Niger Delta, particularly Ijaw, was like someone working with the amnesty. But today because the politicians have politicized it, if you try to tell them something, they will say it is because you belong to one political party or the other, and all these are part of the problem.

What is your thought on the location of the amnesty office in Abuja?

I have said it severally in my capacity as IYC president and I tell you today that I am not just the President of IYC, but I am also president of all the other youth leaders in the Niger Delta, so when I speak I speak in a double barrel capacity. And I have said it severally that the amnesty office that is established to cater for the Niger Delta people and Ijaw people has no business in Abuja. That is faulty, that is wrong. The Niger Delta Ministry as the name implies, what is that ministry doing in Abuja, perhaps some of these people have not even been to Warri, Port Harcourt or Bayelsa State and they want to develop the place, they cannot get it right.

What do you think can be done?

For us to get it right, the amnesty office in Abuja, the Niger Delta Ministry in Abuja, should be relocated anywhere in the Niger Delta. We thank God today that the Minister of the Niger Delta Ministry is somebody that is quite passionate about the development of the Niger Delta. He was Governor of Akwa-Ibom for eight years. He has been senator for some months and he is somebody that has thorough understanding of the problem of Niger Delta. The office should be relocated to anywhere in the Niger Delta. You can’t be wearing suit to the Niger Delta Ministry office. You must be on your toe and enter the speed boat every day. If you don’t enter the canoe as a Niger Delta minister, you won’t get it right.

What do you have to say about the constant clamour for change of the amnesty boss?

What is wrong here for the constant call for the replacement of the of the SA of the presidential amnesty program is that government has decided to play politics with the people. Timi Alaibi was part of the process that gave birth to the amnesty office; Kingsley Kuku was deeply involved. Kingsley Kuku was once the spokesman of Ijaw Youth Council, and the amnesty office is a pet project to the Ijaw youth council. So Kingsley Kuku midwifed that project very well. It was after Kingsley Kuku that politicians decided to give that office to their friends to manage. And that is where you can see that the call for management in that office increases every day. Whether they agree or not there are issues. Majority of the people are saying all is not well in that office. But the danger is that when you try to correct them they will start calling you all sought of names to ensure that you don’t talk to them. This is against the reasons and establishment of that office.

Why is it that the beneficiaries of the amnesty program only go home with N70,000, but the region they agitated for no improvement?

I think that government should go back to the original program plan, if the phase two is the end of the program then some people would have backed out of the program, some people like Tompolo. It was when they had made the third stage that is strategic implementation plan, that means developing the Niger Delta itself not giving people stipends. {That develop the Niger Delta, make the region look like Dubai, like South Africa, that is the third stage that nobody is talking about today}. If you are truly the adviser to the president then advise him and make him know that the third phase is missing in the program. How can you make me an adviser and I don’t have access to you, I will resign the next day. Today, people that are in that office are answerable to other advisers and not the president.

What do you think as per powers allocated to that office that is needed to be done, yet not done?

The powers of the office are enormous, but unfortunately they don’t use it. That office is on two legs, that you are the coordinator of the presidential amnesty program, then secondly you are an adviser to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Niger Delta matters. Now what we have been engrossed with is coordinating and till todaywe don’t know what they are coordinating. The most critical aspect which is advising the president has been neglected and this is because the man does not have access to the man that made him his adviser. And that is why I said if you make me an adviser you must be ready to see me every time because you don’t know what I am coming to tell you. The Niger Delta is a peculiar area and anything that is happening in the Niger Delta area, the President is interested and he wants to know. And I am the SA or the coordinator and I don’t have access to the president and I go somewhere and I report to another SA who is my colleague is unacceptable and can’t help the situation.

Do you think the presidential Amnesty program is more of business activity compared to the real purpose it was initiated?

As at today the presidential amnesty program is like going to buy groundnut. Everybody goes there to look for one form of contract or the other. What about developing the Niger Delta?  This, they are not talking about. What is the fate of our children? If this place is not developed and the aquatic life is gone, the farm lands are gone. I say no to that and we will not take it. Until the government is sincere about the development of the Niger Delta without playing politics with the lives of the people of the Niger Delta particularly the Ijaw people.

What is the stake of the oil companies in the amnesty program?

The oil companies are not doing enough. They are only interested in extracting oil in the Niger Delta and they are not concerned about the lives of the people. They are not bothered if we have school, water or health centres. What interest them is that there is a peaceful atmosphere for them to continue to kill and this is what they are enjoying. How can you say that the Delta is not safe for you to cite your offices but you fly from Abuja to Escravos to take oil every morning and you fly back? If the place is not safe you would not have been able to fly your plane from Abuja or from Lagos to Escravos to do your business and go back to Lagos. They are de-marketing the Niger Delta region; Niger Delta is very safe and peaceful. We have decided to remain in this country called Nigeria but there are issues, and until we are given fair treatment, equal justice,  we will not stop talking.

Now that the plans of this program have not been achieved, what are the implications if the program is brought to an end?

By the original blueprint, the program has a terminal date. But how can you talk about a terminal date when you have not achieved any result? The only successful thing they have done is that they have brought the boys out of the creeks, and secondly you have given them starter packs. But the most important one has not been done which is the strategic implementation plan. The program will not be able to stop without the development of the Niger Delta. What is important is that there is peace; if you just stop the program then you are igniting the problem in the place.

What is the missing link between the agitators and the office?

The missing link here is the coordinator of the office. While that office was established, there were people behind the whole program. You talk about Tiko Ogoriba, as at that time my very good friend Dr. Chris Ekiyor was the President of the Ijaw Youth Council. You have Dan Ekpebide, you have former IYC President John John. You have Hendrick Opukeme, Kennedy Orubebe and so many others. I have it on good authority that these people that gave birth to this program have no one on one relationship with the people that are managing the office and that is a huge challenge. You are managing that office today does not mean you know what it takes to run that office. You can only run that office to succeed when you fall back to the founders and the pioneer members that gave birth to that office. By my position I have vantage information. Until yesterday I spoke to some people that all is not well. It is not as if you are calling for the head of your own. We are only proffering solutions here to make sure that all is okay. But there is something missing. The people have decided to make friends with new people who perhaps have faint or little idea about the process.

Sometime ago, the Presidential amnesty office provided a training centre at Kaiama to train the ex-agitators, unfortunately the properties that were meant for the ex-agitators were looted, what exactly happened?

Well that was a huge disappointment; it was a surprise to me when I saw briefly on Facebook and on other social media handle. I don’t want to join the crowd to say that the looting just happened. That place was manned by military men. There was enough fortified security in that place and no body that can move into that place without the influence of people in high places. We expect the office to show Nigerians, to show Niger Delta people the reports that came out as a result of the looting that the committee was set up for. A committee was set up as of today, we have not heard anything. They have only mentioned names. One name that was mentioned was my friend Chris Ekiyor; and that he was also part of the looting (that is in sane). For anybody to try to involve Chris Ekiyor to that level is mad. He was part of this whole process. When all of this was happening, I made my calls. I sent a team of security men to the place without people knowing that they were from me and they were there for two days and I got report that the way the looting was orchestrated was not something that you and I can do. It was planned; it was well thought out to cover some things we don’t know yet.

Having highlighted the failures of the program, in few words what is the way forward?

Moving forward: I use this medium and opportunity to call on the appointing authorities; that, I mean the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has the sole responsibility to appoint anybody to man the presidential amnesty office to look beyond party lines and appoint people to man that office, people of credible integrity, people who mean well for the Niger Delta and Ijaw people, otherwise we will continue to fail. Nobody should use that office to settle his political associate. If we continue to do that, we will continue to fail.

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