By Chukwudi Nsofor

The Niger Delta region, also known as the South-south would easily pass as the most violence-ridden part of the country some few years ago. It has been so for more than four decades.

Characteristically, the conflicts are rooted in protests against injustice, which metamorphosed into the quest for resource control. Previous governments did that was possible to address conflict that bred insecurity to no avail until 2009, when the late President Umar Yar’adua administration put in place the amnesty programme, which created a level of peace.

Since he came on the saddle, President Muhammadu Buhari has said it repeatedly that the oil-rich Niger Delta region, which, hitherto, had been volatile, has been experiencing peace under his leadership. He reiterated this in his last nationwide broadcast in commemoration of the nation’s Democracy Day and attributed the trend to social inclusiveness and cooperation of the elders and the good people of the region.

According to President Buhari, the federal government remained committed to the implementation of a comprehensive peace, security and development plan for the region. For instance, through the implementation of the environmental clean-up of the region, some of his aides have noted that the amnesty programme is equally doing the magic in sustaining peace in the Niger Delta.

One-time Special Adviser to the President on Niger-Delta, who was also the coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brigadier-General. Paul Boroh, said in his quest for peace in the region, President Buhari promptly approved everything he asked for.

“The main reason the Niger-Delta is stable today is because of the total commitment of the President, Muhammadu Buhari, in ensuring that the Niger-Delta is peaceful and stable, which is mainly to allow for development in the region,” Boroh said. He was particularly elated that just as the president gave him the needed support to achieve his commitment, the stakeholders of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, were also in total support of the administration.

But Boroh’s appointment was terminated on allegations of financial impropriety and other acts allegedly detrimental to the objectives of the Presidential Amnesty Programme and was replaced with Prof. Charles Quaker Dokubo, who has also had tales of good tidings to tell about the successes of programme in the region.

The positive impacts of the amnesty programme was emphatically reiterated on July 11, 2018, when all the who-is-who in the Niger Delta, including some of the most prominent traditional rulers, religious and opinion leaders, intellectuals, community and youth leaders, converged on the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, at the behest of Dokubo, to discuss how to further deepen peace in the region.

Dokubo also attributed the prevailing peace in the region to the successes of the Amnesty Programme, saying “Since inception, the amnesty programme, to a reasonable extent, has achieved its core mandate of aiding the processes of building and sustaining peace and safety in the Niger Delta and the entire Gulf of Guinea. I am not saying that we have attained perfection or Eldorado of sorts.

“I am only saying that the situation would have been far worse in the region and of course for the economy of our dear country. I do not believe that there is any one here who is not aware that prior to the proclamation of unconditional amnesty for former agitators in the Niger Delta in 2009, disruptions in the exploration, processing and export of crude oil almost brought our economy to a standstill.

“Unfortunately, Nigeria’s economy, which largely depends on earnings from oil exports, haemorrhaged very badly during this sad era of militancy. I have since found out that the situation got so bad that on a particular day in 2008, Nigeria was only able to produce 700,000 barrels of crude oil. Today, owing to the success of the Amnesty Programme, Nigeria is now able to meet its current OPEC Quota of 2.2 million barrels per day.

“We must all thank, most profusely, the ex-agitators in the Niger Delta, who have continued to keep the peace in accordance with the pact they entered into with the federal government after accepting the offer of amnesty. Kudos must also go to you our traditional, religious, opinion, intellectual and community leaders as well as the leaderships of ethnic nationalities and youth groups in the Niger Delta.

“If you did not show leadership, persons enlisted in the Presidential Amnesty Programme may well have derailed. So, topmost among the reasons why I have called this meeting is to, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari and the federal government of Nigeria thank you all most sincerely for the critical roles you have all continued to play either as individuals or group to help sustain and even deepen peace in the Niger Delta,” Dokubo said.

While the amnesty programme was recording its soothing effects, a visit by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to some South-south and South-east states, where he made decisive statements further calmed frayed nerves.

Apparently as part of the initiative to curtail resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta region, which had dwindled revenue from oil production, Osibanjo visited Oporoza, headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, home of Chief Government Ekpemupolo a.k.a Tompolo in Warri South-west Local Government Area of Delta State on a facts-finding mission in January. The second leg of his peace and dialogue tour of the oil-rich Niger Delta region took him to Bayelsa, Rivers and Imo states.

Analysts were of the opinions that his visits had far-reaching impacts, because it presented him with the opportunity to reaffirm government’s commitment to addressing the sufferings of the people of the Niger Delta, where Nigeria gets its major income.

He openly confessed that the region had been largely neglected and promised that the federal government would discontinue the ugly trend.

Later in Bayelsa, on February 12, he again assured the people that the federal government would provide rapid development for oil-producing communities in the region. When he visited Port Harcourt between February 13 and 14, in River State, during a town hall meeting with governors, former governors, community leaders, women and various youth groups in the region, Osinbajo underscored the fact that Rivers was critical to the development and stability of the country.

He also urged vandals of oil infrastructure to desist from the act, assuring them that unlike at any time in the past, the current administration is prepared to ensure that the needs of the region are met.

It was at the Rivers State meeting he hinted that the federal government had secured funding of over $1 billion from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to develop the Niger Delta region, a piece of news well received by the people. He also noted that the template for the ‘Clean up Ogoni’ project of the federal government would be replicated in other oil producing communities affected by oil exploration.

Earlier, Osinbajo had noted that the federal government, in line with its Niger Delta New Vision, was targeting measurable objectives in its efforts towards implementing development projects in the region.

Therefore, as one of the main policies of the Buhari administration to resolve agitation in the Niger Delta region, Nigeria had given licenses to 13 firms to establish modular refineries.

– Nsofor, a public affairs analyst, writes from Asaba

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