President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua pressed on with his amnesty package for militants as he insists on strict adherence to the United Nations (UN) standards in reintegration and rehabilitation of militants in the Niger Delta.
The Federal Government also named special centres where the armed men can submit their guns in some states in the oil-rich region and military formations.
Also yesterday, President Yar’Adua directed the chairman of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants in the Niger Delta, Maj Gen Godwin Abbe (rtd) to arrange a meeting with Mr. Henry Okah and formally offer him the amnesty as proclaimed.
Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, said last night that because the amnesty was voluntary and could not be done by proxy, it was necessary for Okah’s acceptance of it and its terms to be obtained before government could proceed with the next line of action.
Adeniyi explained that “the diplomatic side of the Okah’s matter would be tidied up as soon as his acceptance of the offer is obtained. If it is obtained, government is expected to finish with that in a couple of days.”
As the government forged ahead with the state pardon deal, some armed men yesterday continued with their sabotage of oil firms’ operations.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which destroyed two well clusters owned by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Forcados, Delta State, claimed that it killed 23 soldiers and sank a gunboat belonging to the Joint Task Force (JTF) during a gun duel.
In a prompt reaction, JTF admitted the attack on the oil facility but denied any confrontation with MEND fighters. The military team said no gunboat was sunk because the destroyed facility was in an unmanned area.
To the Presidential Implementation Committee on Amnesty and Disarmament, Yar’Adua charged it to comply fully with all UN provisions in the operation of the centres in the Niger Delta states.
It was learnt that headquarters, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Enugu will serve as the coordinating centre for disarmament and the demobilisation of militants, who accept the amnesty offered them by the President.
Under the arrangement, weapons surrendered by the militants in centres in the Niger Delta will be kept at the Enugu Army formation.
A breakdown of the centres, shows that Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States will each have four collection points and two re-integration centres while Edo, Akwa Ibom and Ondo states, where militant activities are less pronounced will each have two collection points and one re-integration centre.
Media Coordinator of the Implementation Committee, Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, said yesterday that Enugu was chosen “because of a presidential directive that a neutral state outside the Niger Delta be used as coordinating centre.
“We are out in the field to inspect the centres that have been identified by the state governors, for upgrading where necessary to ensure it meets the UN standard as it concerns disarmament and demobilisation. We just arrived in Port Harcourt from Enugu where we have inspected the coordinating centre and we are now in Port Harcourt to look at the location on the invitation of the state government; that will serve as collection and integration centres with adequate facilities that are suitable in line with UN standard.
“The UN standard includes a recreational centre, a functional catering centre, adequate accommodation (hostel) complete with necessary facilities like water, electricity.
Shell, which also confirmed the attack, said it had stopped production in the area as a precautionary measure while it investigates to determine what precipitated the action.
Of late, Shell has been the target of MEND, whose spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, said the sincerity of the government on the amnesty came into question again at the weekend when Interior Minister, Maj.-Gen. Godwin Abbe tied the release of Henry Okah to the outcome of Nigeria’s consultations with the governments of Angola and Equatorial Guinea.
MEND alleged Monday that Hurricane Piper Alpha had struck at the Shell Forcados offshore platform in Delta State yesterday at about 0330 hrs.
“Cluster 11 and 30 are currently on fire after a massive explosion.
“A military gunboat patrol on noticing the fire stumbled upon heavily armed fighters and the confrontation resulted in the sinking of the gunboat with all the occupants numbering between 20 to 23 soldiers.
“We have made it clear that patrols must not open fire at us as our target is the oil infrastructure. This unheeded warning resulted in the death of these soldiers,” MEND said.
But JTF said pipelines belonging to Shell were vandalised by militants at an isolated area off Forcados, in Warri South West Local Council of Delta State.
Shell spokesperson, Mr. Precious Okolobo, who confirmed that incident, explained that the attack occurred on two clusters at the Estuary field in the Western swamp operations. He, however, declined to indicate the barrels of crude oil that were affected.
MEND, which alleged that the government had offered N1 billion to each of its camps, accused Abbe of lying when he said Okah travelled to Equatorial Guinea. According to the group, Okah “never set foot in that country; not even on transit .”
Gbomo said: “MEND will negotiate as a group when the time comes.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Merchant Navy has advised the government to reduce the number of creeks in the region as it provides infrastructure in the Niger Delta.
They appealed to the National Assembly to quickly pass the Coastal Guard Bill into law to allow the maritime police combat the Niger Delta crisis.
At a press conference in Sagamu, Ogun State yesterday, the Nigerian Merchant Academy, which described the crisis in the Niger Delta as a national embarrassment, canvassed adequate training for youth in the area for gainful employment. The Director of Information of the organisation, Capt. Banjo Akintunde, said the training of the youth in maritime related courses and subsequent engagement would stem insurgence in the zone.
US Embassy Receives Latest COVID-19 Vaccines For Nigeria
The United State Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, yesterday, visited the National Strategic Warehouse to welcome the latest delivery of U.S.-government donated COVID-19 vaccines.
During the visit, she discussed COVID-19 vaccine storage and distribution with the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, and his technical and warehouse staff.
The visit marks the most recent donation of 3.2million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines by the United States to Nigeria.
A statement by the mission in Abuja, and made available to The Tide in Port Harcourt, said, “These vaccines have over six months of validity before expiration and are being stored at the National Strategic Warehouse for distribution to thousands of COVID-19 vaccination sites nationwide”, she said.
During the visit, Leonard inspected the vaccine doses and discussed how the agency was maintaining proper ultra-cold storage, “as safe and effective vaccines are our best tool to ending the pandemic”.
The latest shipment reflects the United States’ commitment to purchase and donate 1.2billion COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide.
“To date, the United States has delivered more than 370million vaccine doses to over 110 countries.
“This includes the over 24.7million U.S-donated doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the Nigerian people.
“It is important to note that all U.S.-donated Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses to Nigeria have had an expiration deadline of, at least,six months or more upon receipt to ensure adequate time for use.
“Vaccine donations are a part of the U.S. government’s continued partnership with the Government of Nigeria in combating COVID-19.
“To date, the U.S. government has provided over $130million of technical and financial support to Nigeria’s COVID-19 response specifically for vaccination roll out and administration, deployment of personnel to support the response, last mile delivery and supply chain logistics, epidemiological and vaccine related COVID-19 surveys and surveillance systems, testing capacity and molecular lab networks, personal protective equipment, and provision of rapid response teams.
“The U.S. government has also contributed to the training of over 200,000 military and civilian personnel on COVID-19 control measures and maintaining preventive health and social service.
“The U.S. government urges all Nigerians to go out and get vaccinated to make themselves safe and make use of the donated COVID-19 vaccines.
“These actions will strengthen not only the health and well-being of the nation but the overall worldwide response to the pandemic.
“Every individual plays a vital role in supporting the global effort needed to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“The U.S. government will continue its partnership with the Nigerian Ministry of Health and Centre for Disease Control to defeat COVID-19 and deliver life-saving vaccine doses across the country via COVAX”, the statement said.
By: Nelson Chukwudi
Govs To Engage NLC, TUC On Fuel Subsidy Removal -Fayemi
The Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) is to engage organised labour unions on the removal of fuel subsidy in the country.
The NGF Chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, disclosed this while briefing newsmen at the end of the forum’s meeting which ended in the early hours of yesterday in Abuja.
Fayemi said that the 36 states governors met and discussed issues of national importance including removal of subsidy and Electoral Amendment Bill.
“We discussed the issue around petroleum subsidy and concluded to engage the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress.
“We will engage them on how best to address this issue without causing any disaffection, but with a view to salvaging the Nigerian economy for the Nigerian people at the end of the day.
“So, we shall be engaging the NLC as sub national leaders and with a view to ensure that the outcome of our engagement will also be fed into the national discourse,” Fayemi said.
Speaking on what was the input of the NGF in the proposed price of N302/litre as price of petrol; Fayemi said the matter was not a decision of the governors but the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government.
He said that even though it was the responsibility of the National Economic Council, the governors were contributing to the debate.
Fayemi also commended the Senate for accelerating the removal of the contentious clauses in the draft Electoral Amendment Bill.
He expressed hope that the House of Representatives would follow suit, so that the revised electoral Bill could be returned to Mr President for assent on time.
This, according to him, will enable the various institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to proceed at pace with its responsibilities towards the various elections in 2022 and 2023.
“We also discussed the health update particularly in relation to COVID-19 infection and expressed happiness that the current Omicron variant has been declining progressively.
“However, we also note that there is need for states led by us to ramp up the COVID-19 vaccination exercise.
“On nutrition which remains priority of the government, the governors concluded that there is need to increase our support in terms of budgetary provisions for nutrition,” he said.
Fayemi disclosed that the governors received presentation from the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) on Ease of Doing Business.
He said that the governors at the meeting discussed the next phase of ease of doing business survey with the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Dr Jumoke Oduwole and the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri.
“The presentation elaborated on the need to step up the reforms towards improving the investments and business climate at the sub national level.
“Governors also reviewed the recently launched National Development Plan 2021 to 2025.
“This is with a view to ensuring that the National Development Plan is aligned to individual state development plans that have been produced or in the process of being produced to ensure synergy between the development efforts by the federal as well as state governments,” Fayemi said.
Banditry: ‘Over 61,000 Nigerian Schools Vulnerable To Attacks’
In the wake of consistent attacks on schools by bandits in some parts of the country, Commandant General, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Dr Abubakar Audi, has disclosed that over 61,000 Nigerian schools are vulnerable to security threats.
He, however, said the corps would not rest on its oars in seeing to the success of the Federal Government’s Safe Schools Initiative.
Speaking at the inauguration of a 16-member committee on the development of a standard curriculum for Civil Defence Training Colleges across the country, Audi said Nigeria has a total of about 81,000 schools out of which 61,000 are vulnerable to threats.
Audi also told the newly inaugurated committee that the curriculum was a deliberate step towards actualising his vision to reposition the corps.
He said; “I set out to upgrade facilities in our existing training colleges knowing full well that training is an essential ingredient towards attaining optimal performance, skill acquisition/capacity building, and productivity.
“I also initiated the process of developing a standard curriculum for the training schools in order to develop career progression and development courses which will form the basis for future progression in service.
“This issue was discussed extensively at the management level and it was agreed that a committee of professional experts is set up to develop a standard curriculum for our training colleges. The management’s recommendation and membership of the committee were subsequently given a ministerial nod by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, hence today’s inauguration ceremony.
“It is worthy of mention that this ministerial committee is made up of eminent Nigerians and professionals who are experts in curriculum development and have distinguished themselves in the field of education.”
A representative of the Minister of Interior, Peter Ogbodo noted that training was the “live wire” of any organisation, adding that it “is the motivation for individuals to re-educate themselves to the service they have been committed to.”
The committee, which has four weeks within which to turn in its report, has a Professor of Crime and Political Sociology and Development and Vice-Chancellor, Nasarawa State University, S. B. Mohammed as chairman.
Others are a Professor of Law at the University of Jos, Ibrahim Adamu; retired Commandant, Command and Staff College, Jaji, Gen. M.A. Nasamu; a retired Deputy Commandant General (Operations), NSCDC,Evans Ewurum; a retired Commandant of Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, DIG Mohammed Sani; and a retired Deputy Commandant General of the NSCDC, Adeoye Emmanuel, among others.
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