Thursday, 26 April 2012

A BRIEF ON THE PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY PROGRAMME - Kingsley Kuku


Hon. Kingsley Kemebradigha Kuku,
As a step towards resolving the protracted insecurity in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government of Nigeria on June 25, 2009, proclaimed unconditional amnesty for agitators in the oil-bearing Niger Delta. The terms of the amnesty included the willingness and readiness of these agitators to surrender their arms, 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 ex-agitators.

2. The key objective of the Amnesty Programme is to stabilize, consolidate and sustain security conditions in the Niger Delta as pre-requisite for promoting economic development in the area and in the country as a whole. Expectedly, since the proclamation of amnesty for the agitators, peace, safety, security and sustainable development have returned to the once volatile Niger Delta. From a paltry 700 barrels per day in the first week in January 2009, the relative peace that now prevails in the Niger Delta has aided the remarkable growth of Nigeria’s oil production to between 2.4 and 2.6 million barrels per day.

Meeting the goals of the Amnesty Programme
3. Pursuant to the Amnesty Programme’s core objectives of demobilizing, rehabilitating and reintegrating the former agitators into civil society, all the 26,358 persons enrolled in the first and second phases of the programme have successfully gone through nonviolence transformational training at a Demobilization Camp in Obubra, a serene community in Cross River State. For the demobilization exercise, the Federal Government engaged experts from Nigeria, South Africa and the United States of America. The transformational/reorientation activities in the Camp are tailored to extinguish the belief of the ex-agitators in violence and provide them a more powerful alternative – nonviolence.

4. Under the inspirational leadership of Hon. Kingsley Kuku, the Federal Government has met the target of restoring peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta using the instrumentalities of the Amnesty Programme; and as a result, the nation’s economy has rebounded. From a production level of a paltry 700,000 barrels of crude oil per day as at first week of January 2009, the relative peace that now prevails in the Niger Delta has aided the remarkable growth of Nigeria’s oil production to between 2.5 and 2.6 million barrels per day as at today
5.  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, kindly note that with Nigeria producing as at today, between 2.4 and 2.6 million barrels of crude oil per day as against the abysmally low 700,000 barrels per day at the peak of the Niger Delta crisis in January 2009, we are currently making production savings of 1.9 million barrels per day for our beloved country. If you compute this savings with prevailing exchange rate of N160 to $1, daily production savings for Nigeria currently stands at N33.4 Billion per day. If you break this down further especially given that oil production in Nigeria hovered between 2.4 and 2.6 barrels for all of 2011, you would find that savings for Nigeria for year ending 2011 is estimated to be a whopping N6 trillion!  

6.  Conversely, but for the Amnesty Proclamation and the successful management of the post-Amnesty Programme by His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria would have lost by year ending 2011, the staggering sum of N6 trillion or much more! 

7. Following the completion of their non-violence training and career classification in the camp, the Amnesty Office has successfully placed a total of 10,395 former combatants in skills acquisition/training centres as well as in formal education within the country and offshore. Similarly, 12,000 transformed ex-agitators are currently being processed preparatory to their deployment to reintegration centres to pursue either formal education or vocational training.

8.  In all, the Amnesty Programme’s beneficiaries are as at today in 36 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, United Kingdom, Israel, Sri Lanka, India, Benin Republic, Cyprus, Poland, Ghana, 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.

9.  Pursuant to these preferences, the Amnesty Office under Hon. Kingsley Kuku has so far placed 1,085 Niger Delta ex-agitators in the aforementioned maritime-related fields. Of this number, 726 of them are being trained in offshore facilities in Poland, South Africa, India, Italy and Namibia. The others are in training facilities in Nigeria. It is also important to note that of the total deployed number for training in maritime-related areas, 381 have since graduated and 53 of them have become gainfully employed. The Amnesty office is perfecting plans to place additional 1,000 Niger Delta youths in maritime-related training this year.   

10. The overall 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. It is the candid belief of our great leader, His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, that with proper training, many of these youths will in the coming months, be in positions to play key roles in such on-going mega projects in the Niger Delta as coastal roads currently under construction; new town development projects; new railway projects; shore protection projects; environmental remediation projects as well as agriculture and pipeline protection projects.

11.  It is important to add that key operators in the nation’s Oil and Gas Industry (OGI) have set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to help in the reintegration of 3,000 of the ex-combatants enrolled in the Amnesty Programme. Using the module and templates of the Amnesty Office, the OGI group has deploying 1,200 trainees to skills acquisition centers across the country based on the classification carried out at the Amnesty Camp in Obubra. The Amnesty office is currently prevailing on the OGI to take-in ex-agitators who are keen on pursuing formal education. We are also urging the OGI to consider training these ex-agitators in areas where the industry has needs so that they could be absorbed on graduation.

Challenges and Possibilities
12. In spite of the successes the Amnesty Programme has recorded thus far, we are yet contending with the under-listed challenges:

·         The fate of the trainees on graduation from skills acquisition/training centres. How do we get them gainfully employed after offering them skills?

·         The flexibility of the Programme comes with budgetary challenges. The reintegration phase in particular requires huge financial injection. It is typical of DDR Programmes globally that reintegration efforts are constantly reviewed. Very often these reviews require the injection of fresh funds and this consequently alter the budgetary projections. But I am exceedingly grateful to Mr. President who has graciously been funding the Amnesty Programme adequately.
  
·         The Amnesty Office is also confronted with the challenge of securing visas for the trainees to travel to home countries of selected reintegration centres. This challenge largely stems from the fact that the Amnesty Programme’s trainees are misunderstood by a section of the international community. They are not terrorists. They are largely persons who were for a long time neglected by successive Nigerian governments. Given that they come from communities where the nation’s oil wealth is derived, they unfortunately resorted to combative agitations to press home their desire to be given attention by government.

·         It is on this score that we have stepped up interactions with several partner countries and international development agencies. That, Your Excellency, is one of the reasons why we are exceedingly happy to be interfacing with you today.

·         The reintegration phase of the Programme is also being confronted by the challenge of getting the Oil and Gas Industry Group to accept trainees who have elected to return to formal education. We are worried by the preference for artisanship trainings by the OGI

·         We are also contending with the very difficult situation of explaining to thousands of unemployed youths in the States in the Niger Delta that we are unable to include them in the post-Amnesty package since the Programme itself is designed for just a limited or specific category of persons who renounced violence and accepted the offer of amnesty on or before October 4th, 2009.


Tackling these challenges
13.  Let me quickly assert that the Amnesty Programme currently do not have funding problems. It is true that the flexibility of the Programme affects budgetary provision, His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan has been gracious in meeting our funding demands. We are exceedingly grateful. Kindly note also the following efforts that we a making to stem the challenges listed above:
·         Given the concern about what becomes of the ex-combatants after their training in the reintegration centres and institutions, the Amnesty Office has intensified discussions with key government agencies as NDE, NAPEP, PTDF, the MDG Office, the Armed Forces, Police, Customs, Immigration, Prisons and the Road Safety Corp. These institutions have all indicated their willingness to assist in the reintegration of the trainees on graduation. The Amnesty Office is also at the verge of directly setting up businesses for persons enrolled in the Programme who have undergone training in entrepreneurship.

·         It must be noted that the reintegration component of the Amnesty Programme is very often subjected to reviews due to the flexibility of DDR Programmes generally. For example, the Amnesty Office is redesigning the classification process to slightly nudge capable ex-combatants towards embracing formal education. Also, given the discovery that about 45% of the ex-agitators currently enrolled in the Amnesty Programme cannot read or write, provisions are now being made for remedial education for several of them before their placement in skills acquisition centres both in the country and offshore. This very important process review would entail new funding.

·         The Amnesty Office is keenly engaging and persuading the Oil and Gas Industry (OGI) to place a reasonable number of the 3,000 ex-agitators they pledged to cater for in formal education. My candid view is that the involvement of the Oil and Gas Industry Group in the Amnesty Programme would be more impactful in the Niger Delta if they are made to undertake to fund the placement of qualified ex-agitators in formal education in both Nigeria and abroad.

         We are asking friendly countries and international development partners to consider helping the Federal Government of Nigeria to secure vocational training and formal educational institutions offshore and possibly fund the placements of the ex-agitatorss in these institutions using an SPV that will be controlled solely by the international partners. We are also asking friendly nations and international partners to consider keying into the Amnesty Programme in the following ways:
         Assistance in the funding and provision of machinery, equipment and personnel to support entrepreneurial initiatives of the Amnesty Programme
         Technical assistance in the Community Reintegration process and conflict resolution capacity building.
         And generally support the Federal Government’s efforts and initiatives to develop the Niger Delta region through economic empowerment and job creation for the people.
         Provide ideas and information on best practices/ lessons learned from other DDR programmes.
         Provide referrals to identified vocation training centers in the their countries countries and information on other relevant training centers.
         Facilitate immigration processes, especially securing visas for the reintegration programme participants.

14. Finally, Hon. Kuku wishes to restate the total commitment of the Amnesty Office to the actualization of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s vision of a peaceful, clean, safe, secure and developed Niger Delta, using the instrumentalities of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.


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