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.
Only Your Votes’ll Decide Fate Of Candidates, INEC Reassures Nigerians
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reassured Nigerian voters that only their votes will be the sole determinant of the winners among the 15,322 candidates nationwide contesting in next year’s general election.
The commission reiterated its commitment to ensuring that it delivers a credible, free and fair election, reassuring that the votes of the electorate will definitely count.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, gave the assurance in his keynote address at the Annual Conference of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, held in Lagos, yesterday.
He admitted that with the lifting of the ban on political campaigns, the tempo of political activities has increased with parties, candidates and their supporters commencing campaigns, rallies, processions and media advertisements to canvass the support of the electorate.
The chairman, however, warned that the commission will pay particular attention to the conduct of parties, candidates and their supporters, stressing that as the regulator, it will play its role to ensure compliance with the provision of the law as well as our guidelines and regulations.
“The 2023 general election is fast approaching. It is now 141 days to Election Day. Polling Units will open at 8:30 am on Saturday, February 25, 2023, for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) and the same time on Saturday, March 11, 2023, for state elections (governorship and state assembly).
“Campaign in public by political parties officially commenced on Wednesday, September 28, 2022. Therefore, the tempo of political activities has increased as parties, candidates and their supporters commence campaigns, rallies, processions and media advertisements to canvass the support of the electorate.
“The commission has published the final list of 15,322 candidates for the General Election contesting for 1,491 seats (one Presidential, 28 Governorship, 109 Senatorial, 360 House of Representatives and 993 State Assembly constituencies).
“I wish to restate once again the commitment of INEC to credible elections. Votes will continue to count and will be the sole determinant of the electoral outcome,” he assured.
The electoral umpire boss further explained that technological innovations introduced by the commission will guarantee and protect the sanctity of the choice made by Nigerians at the polls.
“For this reason, the commission has introduced many new innovations, supported by the deployment of appropriate technology, to protect the sanctity of the choice made by Nigerians at the polls ranging from voter registration to voter accreditation and result management,” he said.
“The deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) with its dual fingerprint and facial biometric accreditation process has ensured that only genuine voters are accredited to vote during election. This has curtailed the incidence of multiple voting and other sharp practices associated with voter accreditation during elections.
“The BVAS has come to stay and will be the only means by which voters will be accredited in the 2023 general election.
“Furthermore, the introduction of the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) Portal has made the result management procedure more transparent. Polling Unit results are now uploaded in real-time to the IReV portal for public view.
“This has enhanced the transparency, credibility and consequently public confidence in the outcome of elections. The IReV has come to stay and polling unit results will be uploaded to the portal in real-time in the 2023 general election,” he said.
Yakubu further emphasised that; “as campaigns commence, I also wish to remind political parties and candidates that you all signed the Peace Accord organised by the National Peace Committee (NPC) in which you committed yourselves to peaceful electioneering campaign. I urge you to be guided by the letter and spirit of the accord.
“For our part, the commission will pay particular attention to the conduct of parties, candidates and their supporters. As a regulator, the commission will play its role to ensure compliance with the provision of the law as well as our guidelines and regulations.
“We will pay particular attention to a peaceful campaign devoid of abusive, intemperate and slanderous language as well as the use of innuendoes or insinuations likely to provoke a counter-reaction resulting in the breach of the peace.
“Similarly, we will pay special attention to the observance of limits on party and candidate finance. I urge political parties and candidates to carefully study the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and familiarise themselves with their obligations as well as the penalties under the law.
“As you are aware, elections are a multi-stakeholder activity. As the commission is doing its best to ensure a credible process, we also appeal to the media for a continuous partnership. Managing the electoral process for credible outcomes is the responsibility of all of us. As campaign activities get underway, the media will continue to play an important role. A lot of the activities will take place in the media of which the new media is a critical player.
“We must continue to work together against the spread of fake news, misinformation and disinformation that seek to create or exacerbate tension or de-legitimise processes and outcomes,” Yakubu charged.
2023: Era Of Ballot Box Snatching Over, Banigo Insists …Lauds Wike For Reappointing Danagogo
Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, has expressed gratitude to Governor Nyesom Wike for the reappointment of Dr. Tammy Danagogo as Secretary to the State Government.
Banigo stated this during a meeting with leaders and critical stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area at the Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The deputy governor, who congratulated Danagogo for his re-appointment, described the re-appointment as well-deserved.
Banigo said she does not take lightly the call to represent Rivers West at the Senate, and noted that her kind of representation at the Upper Legislative Chambers would bring glory to God.
“I encourage you to tell your people to collect their PVCs, because this time around the votes will count, as the new Electoral Act does not allow what they did in 2019, they cannot try it as nobody can carry ballot boxes”, the deputy governor stressed.
In a related development, Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, has commended leaders of the PDP in Ahoada West Local Government Area, for keying into the Divine Kingdom Mandate.
Banigo made this commendation while meeting with them at the Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday, preparatory to the commencement of her campaigns in the upcoming elections.
She motivated the people to exercise their franchise, by collecting their PVCs to vote for credible candidates of the PDP.
“They should come out and vote, because this is our opportunity to chase out this bad All Progressives Congress-led government at the federal level, as they have brought so much untold suffering, untold hardship, bloodshed and kidnapping. We have seen the developmental strides of our governor so much development is going on in Rivers State, and we are poised to give you more”, Banigo added.
Wike Signs Instrument To Withdraw Omehia’s Recognition As Ex-Gov, Today …Re-Appoints Danagogo As SSG
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, will today sign the official instrument to withdraw the recognition of Sir Celestine Omehia as former governor of the state.
A statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri, yesterday, said that the ceremony would “take place at the Government House, Port Harcourt, on Friday, 7th October, 2022 by 12 noon”.
The statement further read, “His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, is to sign the instrument on cancellation of the recognition of Sir Celestine Omehia as a former governor of Rivers State.
“The cancellation of the recognition is sequel to the resolution of the Rivers State House of Assembly adopted on Thursday, October 6, 2022, to derecognise Sir Celestine Omehia as a former governor of the state”, the statement added.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has approved the re-appointment of Dr Tammy Danagogo as the Secretary to the State Government.
A statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri, last Wednesday, said that “the appointment takes immediate effect.”
It added, “His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, has approved the re-appointment of Dr.Tammy Wenike Danagogo as the Secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG).”
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