THREE YEARS ON, PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY PROCLAMATION PAVES THE WAY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN THE NIGER DELTA
THE TORTUOUS JOURNEY
As a step towards resolving the protracted insecurity in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government of Nigeria exactly three years ago, June 25, 2009, proclaimed unconditional amnesty for agitators in the zone. The terms of the amnesty included the willingness and readiness of the agitators to surrender their arms on or before October 4, 2009, unconditionally renounce militancy and sign an undertaking to this effect. In return, the government pledged its commitment to institute programmes to assist the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of repentant agitators.
At the expiration of the 60-day grace period – by Sunday October 4, 2009, 20,192 Niger Delta ex-agitators had surrendered huge cache of arms and ammunitions to the Federal Government and accepted the offer of amnesty. And Pursuant to the letter and spirit of the Amnesty Proclamation, the Federal Government instituted a Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) package for the ex-combatants who accepted the offer of amnesty on or before the expiration date. Another 6,166 disarmedex-agitators were added in November 2010 to constitute a second phase of the programme to bring up the total number of persons enlisted in the Presidential Amnesty Programme to 26,358.
STATE OF AFFAIRS IN THE NIGER DELTA BEFORE THE PROCLAMATION
The remarkably improved security situation in the core Niger Delta States would be better appreciated when viewed from the pedestal of the situation prior to the Amnesty Proclamation. By January 2009, militancy in the Niger Delta had virtually crippled Nigeria’s economy. Investment inflow to the upstream sub-sector of the oil industry had dwindled remarkably. Exasperated foreign investors had begun redirecting their investments to Angola and Ghana as preferred destinations over Nigeria. At that point Angola surpassed Nigeria as Africa’s highest crude oil producer. This dwindling investments in the critical oil and gas sector threatened Nigeria's capacity to grow its crude oil reserves as planned. Nigeria was targeting 40 billion barrels proven reserves by end of 2010. This target became unrealistic given the exodus of operators in the oil and gas sectors from the country. Clearly, insecurity in the Niger Delta was identified as key reason why investors were leaving for more stable business opportunities in Africa. Sabotage, oil siphoning rackets and kidnappings of oil workers by suspected militants virtually crippled the operations of the oil companies and exerted immense pressure on the
Nigerian economy. Worse still, citing insecurity, union officials all too often called strikes to protest insecure working environment. It got to a point where Nigeria’s export dwindled to as low as 700,000 and 800,000 bpd. By the first quarter of 2009, it was estimated that Nigeria had lost over 3 trillion Naira as a result of militancy in the Niger Delta.
CORE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF THE AMNESTY PROCLAMATION
To further underscore the fact that the proclamation of amnesty for former agitators in the Niger Delta as well as the successful management of the post-amnesty Programme saved the economy of our great nation from a looming collapse, some clarifications may be necessary:
* With Nigeria producing as at today between 2.4 and 2.6 million barrels of crude oil per day as against the abysmally low between 700,000 and 800,000 barrels per day at the peak of the Niger Delta crisis in January 2009, the nation and its Joint Venture Partners are currently making production savings of upto 1.9 million barrels per day.
* Computed with prevailing exchange rate of about N160 to $1, daily production savings for Nigeria and the JV partners currently stands at a minimum of N33.4 Billion per day.
* Given that oil production in Nigeria hovered between 2.4 and 2.6 barrels for all of 2011, it would be safe to emphatically assert that savings for Nigeria and the JV partners for year ending 2011 is estimated to be a whopping N6 trillion.
* Equally, but for the Amnesty Proclamation and the successful management of the post-Amnesty Programme by His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria and its JV partners would have lost by year ending 2011, the staggering sum of N6 trillion or much more.
CURRENT STATUS OF THE AMNESTY PROGRAMME
In May 2011, a closure was achieved in the disarmament phase of the Amnesty Programme when the Amnesty Office in collaboration with the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army publicly destroyed the arms and ammunitions submitted to the Federal Government by the Niger Delta ex-agitators who accepted the offer of amnesty in 2009. This exercise took place in Lokpanta, a boundary town in Enugu State. The public destruction, which was approved by Mr. President, was in conformity with extant DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) codes as spelt out by the United Nations. Further, the exercise became imperative given that the continued presence of the recovered weapons inevitably acted as a destabilizing influence in the country even as the potential of illicit trade remained high.
EXITING THE DEMOBILISATION PHASE
In line with the Amnesty Programme’s core objectives of demobilizing and reintegrating the former combatants into civil society, the entire 26,358 ex-agitators enlisted in the Programme have been fully demobilised, having successfully undertaken non-violence transformational training at the Amnesty Demobilisation Camps in Obubra, Cross River State and Akodo in Lagos State. For the demobilization exercise in the Camp, the Federal Government engaged experts from Nigeria, South Africa and the United States of America. The transformational/reorientation activities in the Camp were tailored to extinguish the belief of the ex-agitators in violence and provide them a more powerful alternative – nonviolence.
Following the conclusion of the demobilisation of the entire ex-agitators enrolled in the Amnesty Programme, Nigeria under the able guidance of His Excellency, Dr. GoodluckEbele Jonathan, GCFR, entered history books as one of the few countries in the world that achieved a successful closure to the Disarmament and Demobilisation phases of its DDR Programme.
PURSUING THE REINTEGRATION COMPONENT OF THE PROGRAMME
Following the completion of their non-violence training and career classification in the camp, the Amnesty Office has successfully placed a total of 11,525 former agitators in skills acquisition/training centres as well as in formal education within the country and offshore. Of this number, 4,929 are being trained offshore while the balance of 6,382 have either been returned to formal education or have been placed in skill acquisition centres within the country. Similarly, 6,067 transformed ex-combatants are currently being processed for deployment to reintegration centres (both within the country and offshore) in the fiscal year 2012.
In all, the Amnesty Programme’s beneficiaries are as at today in 39 local training centres in 12 States of the Federation; while the ex-agitators placed in offshore educational and skill acquisition centres are in the United States of America, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Malaysia, England, Israel, Sri Lanka, India, Benin Republic, Cyprus, Poland, Ghana, Turkey, Romania, Belarus, United Arab Emirates, The Philippines as well as Trinidad and Tobago. More of the trainees are due to be deployed to skill acquisition facilities in Greece, Germany and Canada.
Keying into Mr. President’s vision, the reintegration agenda of the Federal Government is to groom these ex-agitators to become key players in the emerging economies of the States in the Niger Delta. Several of them are also being prepared to become entrepreneurs who will ultimately provide gainful employment for themselves and other youths. It is the candid belief of the Amnesty Office that with proper training, many of these youths will in the coming months, be in positions to play key roles in the bourgeoning economies of the States in the Niger Delta.
CHALLENGES AND POSSIBILITIES
- The Amnesty Programme is currently contending with the random emergence of groups of unregistered youths claiming rights to the benefits of the Amnesty package. Explanations by the Amnesty Office that they cannot be included in the Programme since they did not come out on or before October 4, 2009 to drop their arms and accept the offer of amnesty from the Federal Government have not helped much. The Amnesty Office is currently persuading Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government to seek out ways of engaging or empowering thousands of unemployed and unengaged youths in the Niger Delta. The mandate of the Amnesty Office does not include providing training or manpower development opportunities outside to persons who are outside the 26,358 Niger-Delta ex-agitators enrolled in the Presidential Amnesty Programme. Similarly, the Amnesty Officeis of the staunch view that security agencies in the country must continue to treat all militant agitations anywhere in the country as crime against our great country and thus stem this ugly trend with all the requisite doggedness and seriousness.
- Related to this is the fate of the Programme’s beneficiaries on graduation from skills acquisition/training centres. Indeed over 5,000 of the Niger-Delta ex-agitators have already graduated from various vocational and skills acquisitioncentres. On this score, the Amnesty Office is effectively liaise with operators in the private sector, other agencies of the Federal Government as well as the Governors of the States in the Niger Delta to work out creative ways of generating employment and empowerment for the Amnesty Programme’s graduates. Discussions and collaborations with private sector operators are already yielding fruits as a number of Amnesty Programme’s beneficiaries have been offered paid employment in the private sector.
As the nation commemorates three years of the Presidential Amnesty Proclamation for former agitators in the Niger-Delta, we salute the courage of the Chief Driver of the Programme, His Excellency President GoodluckEbele Jonathan, GCFR. It must be recalled that as Vice-President, Dr. Jonathan was physically involved in major negotiations and consultations, which led to the brokering of the peace accord between the Federal Government and the Niger Delta ex-agitators. Dr. Jonathan defied all security advice and warnings at the time to undertake a visit to the militants-controlled creek areas of the Niger Delta, particularly the then dreaded Camp Five in Delta State. He risked his life and breached all protocols for the sake and objective of extracting peace commitment and ensuring total ceasefire in the region. So today, we salute the courage of President Goodluck Jonathan and also pay tribute to his predecessor, the Late AlhajiUmaru Musa Yar’Adua who graciously yielded to
wise counsel and proclaimed amnesty for the former agitators on June 25, 2009. We salute the courage and tenacity of the Late President and it is our fervent prayer that Almighty God will grant is soul eternal rest.
We also pay tribute to former chief executives of the Amnesty Programme: Major-Gen. Godwin Abbe (Rtd) and Chief TimiAlaibe for their pioneering roles in both the Disarmament and Demobilisation phases of the Programme. We salute the gallant officers of the Armed Forces of our great country who have since inception in 2009 been offering their services to the Programme. We are grateful. Above all however, we applaud the leadership of the former militant agitators in the Niger-Delta for believing in the Federal Government of Nigeria and consequently accepted the offer of amnesty. We thank them also for their unflinching backing for the post-Amnesty Programme. We salute also several eminent Nigerians who, for the love of our great country, staked their lives and toured the creeks of the Niger Delta to broker peace and achieve the disarmament component of the Amnesty Programme. The nation is indebted to you all.
Finally, permit me to reiterate our commitment to the vigorous pursuit of the vision of President GoodluckEbele Jonathan to bequeath a clean, secure, peaceful and developed Niger Delta region that will eventually assume its place as the oil and gas hub of Africa. Thank you.
Hon. Kingsley Kuku
Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta &
Chairman Presidential Amnesty Programme