Kingsley Kuku and Allen Onyema with President Obama and VP Biden during Obama's second inauguration party

Kingsley Kuku and Allen Onyema with President Obama and VP Biden during Obama's second inauguration party

Retain Presidential Amnesty Programme, Kuku Urges Buhari

The  Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta and Chairman ,Presidential Amnesty Programme,Mr Kingsley Kuku has advised the incoming administration of General Muhammadu Buhari to retain the programme for ex-agitators in  the Niger Delta.

“Any form of disruption in the Niger Delta would ultimately halt and hurt this our march to greatness. For the good of Nigeria, we must do all that is within our power, as a nation, to consolidate and deepen the peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta. It is on this score that I wish to counsel the in-coming government, to for now, retain the Presidential Amnesty Programme” Kuku  said  on Wednesday  during a press conference in Abuja.

Kuku whose tenure ends on Friday  as President Jonathan exits office used the occasion to tell the success story of the amnesty programme.

“The last four years has been for me a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s been a delicate mix of humbling successes and daunting challenges. But these challenges were expected given that the Programme was novel and there were no precedents to borrow from. We all practically learnt on the job; and when you learn on the jobs you are bound to make mistakes sometimes and learn from these mistake to make improvements.  Indeed by Thursday June 25, 2015, it will be exactly six years since the Federal Government of Nigeria, in the bid to stabilize security conditions in the oil-rich Niger Delta, proclaimed unconditional amnesty for former agitators in the zone. The terms of the amnesty offered by the Government included the willingness and readiness of the agitators to surrender their arms, unconditionally renounce militancy and sign an undertaking to this effect. In return, the Federal Government pledged its commitment to institute programmes to assist the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of the former agitators.
“The Federal Government also pledged to decisively address those issues that led to militancy in the first place – issues of resource control, environmental remediation, shore protection, pollution and gas flaring, provision of critical infrastructure as well as construction of coastal roads, bridges and railway lines.

“In all, 30,000 persons from the Niger Delta, who accepted the offer of amnesty, were enlisted in the Presidential Amnesty Programme. In strict compliance with the commitments made in the Amnesty Proclamation, the Federal Government, in October 2009, instituted a post-Amnesty Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) package for the ex-agitators.

When he was asked if he supported the call for amnesty for Boko Haram insurgents ravaging the north east,Kuku answered  in the affirmative.But he said the leaders of the north must be seriously involved .Good as military efforts are, they are not enough to end such crisis,he said.

Kuku said Niger Delta militancy was not ended by military prowess,but it took the commitment of the people and their leaders to extract commitments to peace from the agitators who later gave up their arms.

He noted that “The processes of achieving political solution rather than sustaining the military option in solving the Niger Delta crisis began earnestly in 2007 and was ably coordinated by the then Vice President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and approved by the late President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. This political option, which culminated in the extraction of peace commitment from the agitators and of course the proclamation of amnesty by the Federal Government, prevented the country from tipping over the fiscal cliff. Immediately following the offer of amnesty and its acceptance by the Niger Delta agitators, Oil production astronomically rose, surpassing by several nudges, the pre-conflict levels.

“You may recall that at the peak of the crisis in 2009 Nigeria’s crude production fell as low as 700,000 barrels per day. Owing to the success of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Nigeria’s crude production, in the last five years has hovered between 2.2 – 2.7m bpd. Indeed the Niger Delta has now become so calm that several Nigerians are even beginning to understate or              out-rightly forget the overarching national security imperative of that part of our dear country. This should not be. It is my candid view that in spite of the huge investments being made in the prosecution of the war against insurgents in the Northeastern parts of the country, it behooves Nigeria to continue to deepen the peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta, which is the nation’s economic mainstay. It is on this score that I seek to candidly advise the in-coming government to, for now, retain the Presidential Amnesty Programme for former agitators in the Niger Delta.

“About five years on; and in the four years that I have had the privilege to preside over the Amnesty Programme, I can boldly affirm that the Amnesty proclamation and the DDR programme for former agitators in the Niger Delta have generally met the desired goal, which is the stabilization of security conditions in the strategic Niger Delta. All the ex-agitators who were in the creeks fighting against the federal government and impacting against investments and oil production have since been fully disarmed, demobilized and are either currently in training or have since been trained with a view to adding to national GDP and improving themselves and their families. Like I mentioned earlier, a total number of 30, 000 persons were enlisted in the Amnesty Programme. It must however be clarified that it is not true that all the 30,000 persons enrolled in the Amnesty Programme were arms bearers. The internationally recognized post-conflict Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) rules, as spelt out by the United Nations, permit the enlistment of non-arms bearing relatives, children, informants, and several other allies of the actual ex-combatant. Fortunately also, the President approved the inclusion in the programme, a few persons from violence and pollution impacted communities in the Niger Delta.

“Of this entire 30,000 persons, over 20,000 have either graduated or are currently in Universities or vocational training centres both within the country and abroad for various skills acquisition programmes and formal education. 1,320 of our delegates are currently in world-class universities in the United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (USA), United Arab Emirates (UAE), Canada, Malaysia, The Philippines, Australia, South Africa, Russia and Ghana. Similarly, the Amnesty Programme currently has 1,583 delegates in private Universities in Nigeria. Their courses of study in formal education are wide ranging including law, political science, international relations, engineering, accounting and medicine.

“In the four years that I have superintended over the Amnesty Programme, some of my most memorable experiences on the job have been flying with our trainee pilots in reputable aviation training schools across the world. The Amnesty Programme has so far produced 67 Commercial Pilot License (CPL) holders. Of this number, 30 already trained Commercial Pilots are currently undergoing their jet type-rating at the two best aviation institutions in the world: CAE Oxford in England and the Lufthansa Training School in Germany.

“All of this has been achieved as a result of the commitment of our great leader, His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to the success of the Presidential Amnesty Programme. Other institutions have also been very helpful, particularly the National Assembly. I cannot overstate how supportive the National Assembly has been.

“The success of the Presidential Amnesty Programme for ex-agitators in the Niger Delta is no longer in doubt but a lot needs to be done to deepen the gains of the Programme and consolidate peace, safety and security in the zone and the Gulf of Guinea. It must be clarified that the Niger Delta struggle was not just to secure training or skill acquisition opportunities for 30,000 youths. No, the struggle was for much more. First, the Federal and other tiers of Government really need to speedily redeem the developmental pledges made to the people of the Niger Delta in the Amnesty proclamation. I am talking about the commitment made by the Government to decisively address the issues of the participation of the people in the Niger Delta in the exploration and exploitation of their God-given natural resources; the cleanup and remediation of their polluted environment, the provision of critical infrastructure, the speedy completion of the east-west road, the construction of the coastal roads, bridges and rail lines. In a nutshell, it remains my candid view that the Federal Government of Nigeria should adopt the European-style Marshal Plan to provide special funding through the National Assembly, to actualize these commitments made to the people of the Niger Delta.

“Further, the Amnesty Office has trained over 20,000 Niger Delta youths in different skills and vocations. The Amnesty Office has aided a number of them to secure gainful employment or business setup. However, many of them remain unemployed. To achieve lasting peace in the zone, all hands must be on deck to provide employment and empowerment opportunities for these youths and other youths in the Niger Delta who are not covered by the Presidential Amnesty Programme but need training and employment.

“The Niger Delta is now relatively safe and secure and ripe for fresh investments. It is important that I use this very important platform to pass this message across to potential investors not just in the oil and gas sector but also in Agro-allied businesses. We have in the last five years made the region conducive for investments. You will agree with me that new investments would stimulate the economies of States in this zone and create employment opportunities for several of the youths that have been offered skills under the Amnesty Programme.

“Another important area of cooperation is in the set-up of trained Niger Delta youths who have the capacity to manage their businesses. Like I mentioned earlier, we are already helping them to set-up; but additional technical support is required in this area. I know that many of them will be willing to work with able institutions and persons in this regard.

“Yes, it is true that Amnesty proclamation and the post Amnesty Programme has engendered relative peace in the Niger Delta which in turn, has helped to grow the nation’s economy but I will not hesitate to counsel that this peace and stability in the Niger Delta region that was won by the Amnesty Programme should not be taken for granted. The fastest and easiest way to guarantee lasting peace in the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea is the provision of the needed critical infrastructure that would stimulate economic growth and provision of gainful employment for millions of unemployed youths in the zone.  Oil companies and other stakeholders cannot continue with business as usual while we make strenuous attempts to reintegrate former agitators. The historical grievances that gave rise to the militancy and insurgency must be addressed

“All stakeholders, namely, the people in the oil producing communities, the multinational oil companies and the governments (Federal, State and Local) should all play a part in finding empowerment and employment opportunities for thousands of youths in the Niger Delta who have been offered skills or are currently being offered skills by the Amnesty Office.

“Specifically, oil and gas producing companies in the Niger Delta must exercise Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as an acknowledgment and demonstration of the need to marry social investment, the building of social capital, the alleviation of poverty and the promotion of social inclusion with economic development and wealth creation

“Crucially, the post-Amnesty situation gives oil companies the opportunity to begin to invest in communities and particularly in the future careers of the Niger Delta youths enrolled in the Amnesty Programme. We owe it to the present and future generations in the Niger Delta and Nigeria to put environmental remediation on the agenda

“Nigeria has the potential to become a great and cohesive nation, a great economy to match if not surpass that of India and Brazil. It is blessed with more natural resources in commercial quantities than oil and gas, including fertile and verdant agricultural lands. Oil revenue should be used to diversify the economy, which has been over dependent on oil and gas, create employment and a better standard of living for its large and predominantly young population. Nigeria needs to imagine a time when it will not be able to draw upon its oil and gas reserves and begin, now, to build a mixed economy that can engage the talents and creativity of the masses of its people rather than the relatively few that are employed in the oil industry

“I hold the strong view that the outlook for Nigeria is strongly positive as we continue to address our security and other challenges. It is important for all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria to come in at this point to join the partnership that is required to deepen this progress and sustain our inexorable march to greatness

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