The history of amnesty programmes in Nigeria, though had given room for relative peace in areas where such had been granted since the 1967 reprieve the General Gowon-led government offered the Isaac Boro revolution that raised a mutiny against the Federal Government of Nigeria for 12 days.
However, one major condemnation of that amnesty and others that came after were the successive governments’ failure to address the basic socio-economic needs of the Niger Delta.
Amnesty programme will, no doubt, be a litmus test for the Mohammadu Buhari-led Federal Government’s in view of the need for maintenance and sustenance of peace in the Niger Delta and the nation’s lean purse at this period.
In view of this the President’s pledge of commitment to prosecuting the amnesty programme in the Niger-Delta with vigour, to bringing about lasting peace and stability in the area becomes necessary
The president’s restated commitment was contained in a statement in Abuja on Thursday by the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Department, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Ohi Alegbe.
According to the statement credited to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Dr Jamila Shu’ara who made this made by the President in his message at the on-going 167th Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) International Seminar in Vienna, Austria.
Apparently conscious of the need for peace in the Niger Delta region at this auspicious period for his administration and OPEC community in general, Shu’ara said the president assured Nigerians on his commitment to ensuring stability in other parts of Nigeria and stressed the need to make the operational environment safe and attractive once again.
She said, “Nigeria is committed to tackling corruption, especially in the extractive industry. The country will strive to bring back transparency and accountability in public life, especially in the petroleum industry, which is the mainstay of the national economy,”.
Emphasising the interest and the effective roles expected of Nigeria in the affairs of the OPEC, she stated that under the new administration of President Buhari, the country will be more active and would not shirk in her responsibilities.
Speaking further she recalled that President Buhari who was at one-time Minister of Petroleum Resources and Head of Nigeria’s Delegation to the OPEC Conference would continue to work for the realisation of the aims and objectives of the organisation.
Dr. Shu’ara, who was at the OPEC meeting to convey the message of Buhari and that of Nigeria to all Heads of Delegation of OPEC Member Countries and representatives of other countries, appreciated the keen interests shown by member countries during the political transition programme.
She said Buhari appreciated the keen interest shown and, in some cases, the support given to Nigeria towards the implementation of what had become a very successful political transition programme.
Explaining the delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, Dr Shu’ara assured that the Buhari administration would take a critical look at it with a view to effecting necessary changes that would facilitate its early passage, adding that the federal government would strive to diversify the economy and put in place essential infrastructure that would aid its growth.
“We are committed to investing in the whole petroleum value chain, in order to add more value to our national economy from our natural resources and reduce our over dependence on exported crude oil revenue,” she said.
The Niger Delta struggle is motivated by the demand for resource control and equitable wealth distribution and protest against the flagrant and damaging (ecological) activities of oil multinational companies (MNCs) operating in the region.
It will be recalled that Delta State chairman of Phase Three amnesty programme, Preye Ekpebide had in 2014 urged the immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan to extend the amnesty programme beyond 2015 in order to continue to enjoy the recent peace being experienced in the region.
The ex-militant leader had in a statement urged the federal government to heed the advice of Senator James Manager, who advocated that the programme should be extended.
Ekpebide, who explained that output in increase in the country’s oil production as the mainstay of the economy, was s because of the declaration of the amnesty programme urged the Government and Nigerians to be thankful to the ex-war lords for laying down their arms.
“Due to the vastness of the Niger Delta, it was quite impossible for the Federal Government to develop the region within the stated period of the amnesty, but to sustain the peace in the region alongside development, the amnesty needs to continue beyond 2015? he said. “Senator Manager, being an indigene of the region and in his position as the Senate Committee Chairman on the Niger Delta has a better knowledge of the region and for him to call for the extension of the amnesty programme speaks volumes for Nigeria. We called on the state governors of the region to appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan to listen to the people of the region and allow the programme to continue until the reasons for the Niger Delta struggle are fully realised.”
Though Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission, Senator James Manager, form Delta South in the upper chamber asserted that any plan to scrap the Amnesty Programme for ex-militants, will end the continued existence of Nigeria as a nation.
Meanwhile, some people have been clamouring for the scrapping of the programme because of the huge funds they claimed, the federal government was spending in executing it. What the Buhari administration will do with the amnesty programme that had gulped billions of Naira remains unknown to many Nigerians as the nation battles with the dwindling fall in oil prices in the international market and the need to drive the economic against other demands.