Published On: Mon, Oct 17th, 2016

Another face of the Niger Delta amnesty: From creek navigators to auto makers

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By Jide Ajani

The Niger Delta has come to be associated with a large dose of instability. Armed agitations, insecurity, vandalism of oil installations, kidnapping and even bickering amongst its elders and leaders.

However, a face of the region which is less exposed is how the lives of thousands of Niger Delta youths have been steered from instability, and positively transformed by the Presidential Amnesty Programme.

Miss Mercy, Ereibor from the Abere Community, in Ovia South West of Edo State, “was involved in the struggle” as a student. Rising to become the Woman Leader of the Ijaw Youth Council in Egbema Clan, and then Benin City, she took Amnesty when it was declared by the Yar’ Adua administration in 2009.

The bus the ex-agitators assembled

The bus the ex-agitators assembled

That decision she said “Really changed my life. A lot of things changed for me including my thinking and orientation”.

The Amnesty Office later sent her to the Birmingham University, United Kingdom where she graduated in Management and International Business.

She said “Today I am happy, and my family is happy”

Markson Dakoru, from Kula, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of River State was inducted into a cult at 10, and joined the militants at 16, where he rose to become a commander entitled to seven guns including pump action, AK 47 and FM, a chainless general purpose machine gun. Apart from militant agitations, he had his own bunkering point, was an escort through the creeks and engaged in piracy “where we collected homage from barges passing through our territory.

”Like many of his friends he thought he could be killed any time either in gun battles with the military or in intra and inter-militant battles, so he started making babies by different women ‘So as to leave at least a child behind when I die.”

When Amnesty came, it was music in his ears. “Amnesty gave me my life back. My life completely changed; I was given scholarship to study at the Limkokwing University of Creative Arts, Malaysia where I graduated (B.Sc. in Information and Communication Technology). Today, I am a model in my community and among my friends”

Prince Borogha Aladin, from Ekowe, Southern Ijaw, Bayelsa State said “I was a freedom fighter fighting for resource control to ensure my people had a better life. It was very difficult; no rest of mind. We were always ready for attacks by the military and I told myself that even if I die, I will be okay. Then we got Presidential pardon and submitted our RPGs (Rocket-propelled grenades) and AK47s. We went through a de-radicalization process and I was given a scholarship to study at the South West University, Kursk where I got a degree in Industrial Management. I moved from armed struggle in the creeks to Europe; I couldn’t believe it.”

How Amnesty is transforming Niger Delta.

The Presidential Amnesty Programme is based on the United Nations Model of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR). Today, it is in its last phase of fully reintegrating the ex-Agitators, referred to as Delegates, back into society. In the last five years, it has trained internationally certified Pilots, Air Traffic Support Operators, Aeronautic Engineers, Petrochemical, Mechanical, and Automobile Engineers. Also trained by the Amnesty Office are Lawyers and Medical Practitioners, Welders, Artisans, Fashion Designers, Beauticians, Five Star Chefs and Hospitality Managers. The Amnesty Office has given 15,212 beneficiaries training in education and vocation both in the country and abroad. Those still undergoing training are 3,337.

However, there are 11,411 beneficiaries awaiting training or education.

 Brains of the Niger Delta.

Miss. Akpoudje Ujubenyinye and Coordinator of the presidential Amnesty Prog, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (retd)

Miss. Akpoudje Ujubenyinye and Coordinator of the presidential Amnesty Prog, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (retd)

In working towards the full integration of the ex-Agitators into society and extending training to people impacted by the violence during the agitations, beneficiaries were given two broad options; either to go for studies in tertiary institutions or vocational training. Many of the results on both scores were startling as some performed exceptionally well revealing that the Region has a lot of hitherto untapped brains.

In education for instance some had First Class and Upper Class degrees both from Nigerian and off shore universities. One of the most outstanding results were those who graduated from universities in the United Kingdom (UK) in the 2015/2016 Session.

Twenty two of the 144 students who graduated from UK universities had First Class and Second Class Upper degrees. Three of them had First Class degrees from Liverpool and Bedfordshire Universities graduating in Mechatronics and Robotic System Engineering, Telecommunications and Network Engineering, and Public Relations.

Eight of them had Second Class Upper degrees in Law, Criminology, Accounting, Computer Science and Health and Social Care from the University of Bedfordshire. Six of them graduated Second Class Upper from the University of Liverpool in Pharmacology, Geology, Maritime Business, Accounts & Finance, Politics and International Relations. Two had Second Class Upper from the Swansea University in, Law and international Relations while one each graduated in the same Class from Anglia Ruskin, Plymouth and Portsmouth universities.

The 120 ex-Agitators who were trained in automobile technology at the Innoson-Kiara Academy, did exceptionally well and capped their outstanding performance by building a 32-seater diesel engine bus from scratch to finish. It is a good testimony of the Amnesty Programme to see youths who were once engaged in fighting and destruction, now engaged in building. The bus is billed to be presented to the Federal Government at a reception in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa for outstanding beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty Programme scheduled for October 19, 2016.

Twenty five Amnesty beneficiaries were sent for a nine-month training in Transformer Repairs and Maintenance in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State from November 28, 2015. They graduated on October 1, 2016. The delegates built a transformer from the scratch during their training a feat which earned four of them; Messrs Sunday Solomon, Sagin Ogboko, Victor Borgana and Otuyevwohwo automatic employment by the service provider, Messrs Brainbox Matrix Services Limited.

Mr. Solomon, an Ogoni, from Khana Local Government Area in Rivers State, said “I had no job before I was called up for the training. I was at zero level, now I have been lifted up and can take care of myself and my family. I can easily tell you what is wrong with a transformer. I have the knowledge and the confidence. I never believed such a thing can happen to me”

Thanks to Amnesty, I am an Aviation Maintenance Engineer – Ujubenyinye.

Miss. Akpoudje Ujubenyinye is from a family of thirteen. She read Estate Management at the Institute of Management Technology, Enugu. However, when the Amnesty Programme offered her the opportunity to undergo a course in Aviation Maintenance Engineering at the Royal Jordanian Air Academy (RJAA) her life changed. Armed with a post-training On-the-Job-Training (OJT) license of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) she is ready for the world.

“I saw the training as a great challenge. Being the only woman in the course, it was even more challenging. The Amnesty Programme has been a huge blessing to the Niger Delta and peace in the country. It is a good empowerment programme for the youths. With such a programme, there won’t be serious insecurity challenges in the Niger Delta”.

The success and challenges of the Amnesty Programme – Boroh.

The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programmme, Brigadier General Paul Tarela Boroh (Rtd) played prominent roles in the resolution of the armed conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia. He was the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Mission in Liberia. He spoke to VANGUARD about the Amnesty Programme.

“The Amnesty Programme has been quite challenging but sometimes exciting. For instance when on Tuesday October 11, I visited the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, Zaria to sign an MOU to train twenty beneficiaries, I was thrilled that it was one of the pilots we trained in the Amnesty Programme, Bassey .E. Henshaw, who is now a Flight Instructor in the College that flew my delegation and I from Zaria to Abuja. “The Amnesty Programme was borne out of the Presidential Pardon which was granted to end the protracted hostilities and insecurity that reduced oil production from 2.2 Million bpd to 700,000bpd and to address the human capacity and infrastructural development as well as the environmental degradation.

Some of the re-engineering I have carried out include the biometric verification of beneficiaries, stipends are paid to Individual accounts, we have ensured that there is no duplication of stipend payment and delegates on In-training Allowance are no longer eligible for stipend. “Also, we domesticated the programmes and drastically reduced costs. Before I came to the Amnesty Office, no beneficiaries were exiting the Programme, but now, we are exiting beneficiaries who are gainfully employed, have benefited from our education scholarship, trained in vocation skill and given Starter Packs to establish their individual businesses. Additionally, we are establishing farm settlements and cluster farms to move beneficiaries from the Stipend Payroll to gainful employment in agriculture.

“The Programme Projection for 2017 is to train and engage 10,000 beneficiaries in agriculture. This is in line with the Green Alternative Initiative of the FGN. We thank President Muhammadu Buhari for continuing the Programme. Given the proposals in the 2017 budget, we have no doubt that the financial obligations of the Programme will be met.



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