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.
Buhari Seeks Return To Family Values In Rebuilding Nigeria …Wike, Tambuwal, Other Govs Attend Ikpeazu’s Son’s Wedding
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the reason why there were so many problems in the Nigerian society was because of a diminishing emphasis placed on the importance of family values.
Buhari said this, yesterday, at the wedding of Mr. Jachimike Ikpeazu, son of Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu at the International Conference Centre in Umuahia, Abia State.
At the event, the groom wedded his heartbeat, Miss Thelma Chidinma.
The wedding was also attended by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tanbuwal, and several other dignitaries.
Others present at the wedding service that was conducted by the Seventh Day Adventist Church were Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel; Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri; Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed; Ebonyi State Governor, Engr. David Umahi; and Enugu State Governor, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Also at the event were the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; and National Secretary-elect of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Sam Anyanwu.
Buhari, who was represented at the occasion by the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uche Ogah, decried the situation where parents and guardians who should have paid greater attention in inculcating good character in their wards, have abdicated that responsibility.
He sued for a collective effort across tribes and regions towards restoring family values and giving it its rightful place.
“Marriage is family value, character. The reasons why there are issues in the society, today, is because families are broken. When values are enshrined in families, the entire society will be good.”
Buhari charged the couple to build their family on the word of God, have a regular family altar of prayers, and give good attention to building enduring character.
Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, who was represented by wife of the Ebonyi State Governor, Mrs. Rachael Umahi, told the couple to know that marriage is where love is celebrated.
She urged them to continue in the training given to them by their parents, and learn to love themselves more so that their home can be a blessing and impact positively on others around them.
In his sermon, Pastor B. E. O. Udoh, admonished the couple not to allow their love for each other to diminish.
He further urged them to be tolerant, support each other to become their best, build and cultivate goodly character.
In his remarks, Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu said it was delightful to watch his son take a wife to himself, and prayed God to make their union fruitful.
Ikpeazu expressed gratitude to Buhari and his wife, his brother governors, political associates and friends who attended the event, for honouring him with their presence.
Insurgents Planning To Attack Military Bases, DSS Alerts
The Department of State Services (DSS) has issued an alert over planned attacks by insurgents on Ogun border communities and other border communities in Nigeria.
In a letter signed by the State Director of Security, Ogun State Command, M.B. Abdullahi, DSS warned that it has intelligence that the insurgents were plotting to attack military bases in border towns.
The DSS also advised customs and other security agencies in the country to put counter-measures in place to frustrate the plot by the insurgents.
The letter titled, ‘Plans by insurgents to launch attacks on military bases in various border communities’ read, “Available intelligence indicates plans by insurgents and criminal elements to carry out simultaneous attacks on military posts and bases in various border communities across the nation anytime from now.
“In view of the foregoing and the likelihood such attacks not limited to the military personnel only, all law enforcement and security agencies with operational bases at border communities are advised to take note of the above threat and emplace countermeasures with emphasis on personal security of operatives to frustrate the planned attack.”
PAP Partners NNPC To Sustain Peace In N’Delta
Towards attaining sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region, the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) have agreed to work together to tackle pipeline insecurity, unemployment and other challenges in the region.
The agreement was reached when PAP’s Interim Administrator, Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd) led a delegation to visit the Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mr Mele Kyari, in Abuja, over the weekend.
In a statement signed by the Special Adviser on Media to the Acting Administrator, Mr Neotaobase Egbe, PAP said the meeting was strategic and in line with the objective of programme to partner with all relevant stakeholders for the full implementation of the amnesty programme.
He said PAP was courting willing partners to have robust synergy to drive the Niger Delta Recovery Plan (NDRP) to fruition.
The statement noted that though PAP was executing its own role in reintegrating 30,000 ex-agitators captured by the Presidency, there was a need to strengthen partnership between sister agencies of government for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta.
He said the NNPC like other institutions of government had roles to play in oil assets redistribution, infrastructural development and environmental remediation.
Dikio said that there was a need to control disruptions in oil production, saying destructive energies could be channelled into productive ventures through re-orientation and sustained advocacy.
He also said that PAP had made efforts to cut down irrelevant trainings and had become intentional about successfully empowering its delegates.
He said trainings over the years had become contractor-driven and were not meeting the beneficiaries’ needs.
Dikio maintained that the PAP was targeting functional businesses that had the capacity to train, employ and mentor delegates into becoming successful business owners.
He said: “For instance, if we have someone that has a commercial poultry farm and we partner with them to train our delegates, they will be employed after their training. In the course of two years and five months they will be taken through the ropes of poultry farming before they are sent out to start their own poultry.
“It is a win-win for everybody. We did the research and we discovered that the cassava plant in Bayelsa needs about 20,000 metric tons of cassava daily, so there is ample opportunity for our delegates to go into that kind of business.
“Again, palm oil when sold in international markets is above $1,000 a ton, and here, we are in the region only focusing on oil and gas”.
Dikio further said there were arrays of businesses the PAP was looking to inject delegates into, adding that exceptional graduates under the PAP scholarship scheme had more opportunities for employment.
In his remarks, the NNPC GMD, Mele Kyari, commended Dikio for the efforts to ensure peace in the Niger Delta, and emphasised the need to sustain the peace through accommodation and inclusiveness of Niger Delta youths.
He bemoaned the inability of the oil industry to fulfil its obligations to the region over the years, saying that it was one of the reasons the amnesty programme had prolonged.
He said: “As we speak today, we have seen a number of increasing incidents of unrest; cases that remind us of the past we don’t want to recollect again.
“Therefore, everything you have said points to the fact that inclusion, support and empowerment for young people particularly in the Niger Delta will bring peace and development to the Niger Delta. No amount of resources available to you will give you peace except there is alignment with the respective players in the space”.
Kyari said the award of licences to investors to begin production on about 57 marginal oil fields within Niger Delta in 2022 was designed to support businesses that originated from the region because most of the beneficiaries from the marginal field programme were indigenes of the Niger Delta.
He said working together would bring lasting peace to the region, explaining that the number of experienced technical people produced from the programme, would easily fill employment opportunities.
He said: “Once you create opportunities and investments return, more employment opportunities will come. I think it is a good thing that we work together, both the amnesty programme and all other actors in this space to bring the lasting peace to the Niger Delta and across our country, where people can benefit because ultimately if we cannot give, there will be nothing to show in another five to ten years, that is the reality that we are in.”
By: Akujobi Amadi
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