Ex-militants threaten resumption of agitation

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Ex-militants, under the Third Phase of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, have threatened to go back to the creeks over the plight of beneficiaries whose training, empowerment and reintegration programmes have been suspended abruptly.

 

The third phase ex-agitators, under the auspices of the United Amnesty Delegates, yesterday frowned at the abandonment of the reintegration and empowerment component in a radio programme monitored in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.

They noted that reneging on full reintegration of all ex-agitators captured during the disarmament stage amounted to a breach of the terms of the amnesty agreement and advised the government to keep the pact.

According to the leader of the group, Mr Ebi John, the development followed the non-payment of verified PAP’s contractors since November 2019 up till date.

He also said the speculations on plans to scrap or wind down the Amnesty programme without fully reintegrating the 30,000 beneficiaries had caused apprehension among their fold as they were contemplating a protest to demand the resumption of the exercise.

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Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari on August 26, 2020 announced the sacking of Prof Charles Dokubo, who was earlier suspended in February 2020 and appointed Col Milland Dikio (retd.) as the Interim Coordinator of the programme.

Speaking during the programme, the ex-militant leader lamented the pains the ex-militants in the Niger Delta were going through as a result of the non-payment of contractors handling various trainings and empowerment schemes in the programme.

Ebi explained that the most critical part of the Amnesty programme is the reintegration of the ex-agitators into civil life, saying reintegration comprised the training and empowerment of the ex-agitators to enable them to have sustainable sources of livelihoods in line with the amnesty deal with the Federal Government.

He said that the suspension of training and empowerment of the ex-agitators was an clear indication of the rumoured scraping of the Presidential Amnesty Programme by the present administration, adding that the move would be resisted.

He stated: “Our findings indicate that the National Security Adviser has been in charge of the programme and we shall not accept  scraping the Presidential Amnesty Programme without achieving its objectives.

“The United Amnesty Delegates is sending a message to the NSA that the alleged plot to scrap the programme is now clear to the entire Niger Delta people, particularly the ex-militants and we will resist it with our blood as usual.

“The non payment of contractors/vendors by the Amnesty office since November last year is a ploy by the NSA to cleverly scrap the programme as beneficiaries of the programme no more undergo trainings.

“This is because of the backlog monies the office is owing contractors. We are calling on the Federal Government to caution the NSA to pay all verified contractors to enable beneficiaries to return to their various training centres to continue with their training and empowerment schemes without further delay.

“If the government fails to address this appalling situation, we shall have no other option but to go back to the creeks and take actions that will compel the Presidency to react immediately.

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“The payment should cut across board and devoid of bias. The United Amnesty delegates demand an explanation as to why the NSA is still the one running the office after an interim coordinator has been appointed.”

Chairman of Amnesty Vendors Forum, Mr Samson Graham, in a reaction said the Amnesty office stopped paying contractors since November 2019.

According to him,  the contractors cannot continue their trainings and empowerment schemes without funds, hence, everything about training and empowerment has been halted for about one year.

He appealed to the Presidency to facilitate the payment of verified contractors to enable them to return to the various training centres to continue their jobs.

A source at the Presidential Amnesty Office who spoke on condition of anonymity stated that the delays were due to several audit investigations in the tenure of the last Coordinator.

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