Prominent Niger Delta leaders and civil society activists are agitated. The reason for their unease is the lull in the implementation of the post-amnesty programme for repentant militants. They, like most other Nigerians are worried that three months after the ex-militants in the region surrendered their weapons and embraced peace at the expiration of the October 4, 2009 deadline set by the Federal Government, the amnesty deal appears rooted in the starting bloc.
The general apprehension appears to be fuelled by security reports that the exmilitants, numbering about 15,000 were getting restive and may resume hostilities if things do not change for the better. The Federal Government had promised a post amnesty programme that ought to have taken the militants who surrendered their arms through demobilisation, rehabilitation and re-integration processes to make them useful to themselves and the larger society.
The concerned stakeholders, met recently in Abuja at the National Roundtable for Good Governance organised by the Faculty of The Initiatives, a group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives.
They warned that the continued delay in implementing the post-amnesty programme as captured in the supplementary budget could have serious national security implications because the repentant militants could interpret the inaction to mean that the government had abandoned the amnesty programme, stressing that such perception could trigger off another round of hostilities in the oil- rich region. They observed that though the 2009 Supplementary Appropriation, which primarily targeted specific projects in the post-amnesty agenda has been passed by the National Assembly, it cannot be implemented because President Umaru Musa Yar Adua has not signed it into law.
Things would have been different if the President had properly handed over to his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice President, before travelling to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. That is precisely the grouse of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, which claimed that it attacked a major crude oil delivery pipeline in the creeks of Abonnema, Rivers State on December 19, 2009. MEND said it carried out the attack to protest the prolonged absence of ailing President Yar’Adua from the country, adding that the slow pace of implementation of the postamnesty programme was unacceptable to them.
Although the oil companies have denied that any of their installations was attacked, the news has certainly reminded us all that the nation is sitting on the keg of gunpowder over the Niger Delta crises. Any further dilly-dallying on the post-amnesty deal puts the nation at the risk of returning to the ugly pre-amnesty era Perhaps, to avert this possibility, the Vice President, promptly inaugurated one committee and four sub-committees to fast track the government’s efforts at consolidating the gains of the amnesty process. Dr. Jonathan said that the action was part of the efforts to revive the amnesty programme, which had been slowed down for some time now.
The Minister of Defence and Chairman of the Federal Government Amnesty Committee, Major General Godwin Abbe (rtd), also weighed in to douse the fears that the Federal government was losing control of the situation in the Niger Delta. He said that contrary to insinuations that the amnesty programme has gone awry, the government was on top of the situation.
Obviously, the Defence Minister was only being defensive. His counterpart in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Ufot Ekaette came out clean to admit that all is not well with the plans to urgently develop the Niger Delta.
In order to consolidate the recent gains, build confidence and prevent a relapse into violence, the President needs to beef up the ongoing process of returning former fighters to the society as productive and responsible citizens. He should also vigorously implement his plans to address the underlying economic and social problems that triggered militancy in the area.
The re-orientation programme should have taken a cue from the Non-Violence Training Scheme initiated by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2008 to assist in reforming the youths who would have resorted to anti-social activities as a result of joblessness.
Then, the commission sponsored 600 militant youths from the Niger Delta for training in non-violence agitation. The training programme was organised by the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN), a non-governmental organisation. The youths were trained both in Lagos and South Africa.
In addition to changing the mindset of the youths, it is also important to find a sustainable way of engaging them in a gainful economic activity such as agriculture.
It is common knowledge that over 80 per cent of Niger Deltans were farmers and fishermen before crude oil came into the picture.
It is only logical, therefore, to reactivate the hitherto mainstay of the Niger Delta economy – farming and fishing. This time around, however, it should be with a touch of modernity to take advantage of the new techniques of the computer age. The youths should be encouraged to form cooperatives at the end of their training and should be carefully mentored to eventually stand on their own.
To guard against the resurgence of hostility in the region, the Federal Government should immediately come out with a comprehensive timetable for its post-amnesty plans and follow it up with concrete actions that will convince even the sceptics that the Yar’Adua administration truly means business.
Agbu is editor’s guest.
Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road
No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.
By: Taneh Beemene
Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank
The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.
Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms
Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.
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