By Esther Eugene, Warri
The well publicized Niger Delta Economic Discourse Series, put together by management of GbaramatuVoice Newspaper was on Tuesday November 29, 2022, held at BON Hotel, Effurun, Delta state.
The event which had as a theme: Presidential Amnesty Programme and proposed Modular Refineries, was graced by dignities and well meaning Niger Deltans drawn from the academia, members of specialized groups, presidential amnesty beneficiaries, students at various institutions of Higher learning in the country among others.
The gathering queried the Federal Government current non-participatory approach to development in the region, as well as its protracted inabilities to embrace a broad-based consultative approach that will give the people of the Niger Delta some sense of ownership over their own issues.
While noting that the challenges confronting the Niger Delta as a region dates back to as far as the 15th century, the gathering submitted that to effectively resolve the Niger Delta crisis, the government and other Nigerians should begin to see the problem of the Niger Delta as a national one and not restricted to the region.
Participants were particularly not happy that greed, selfishness, tribalism and brazen absence of political will arising from poor leadership in the country, has become potent factors that derailed the well conceived Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) created to tackle youth restiveness resulting from galloping unemployment in the region as well as hindered the actualization of Federal Government proposed but now abandoned modular refineries in the rejoin.
They further regretted that thirteen (13) years after the presidential proclamation, the programme have neither dealt with the fundamentals of the Niger Delta struggle nor faithfully addressed the three pillars of the Amnesty Programme: Disarmament, rehabilitation and reintegration, but painfully left the targeted beneficiaries of the programme more as victims of political deceit and manipulation by selfish politicians and other non-state actors that have recently hijacked the programme.
While they observed that the amnesty programme had become a cesspool of corruption and avenues for revenue leakages which must be blocked for efficient management of the program, the group argued that the Presidential Amnesty Office must stop giving handouts to beneficiaries and in its place develop a workable and democratized roadmap that will ensure that all amnesty beneficiaries are gainfully employed or adequately empowered.
The gathering therefore, called on Mr. President to strengthen PAP to achieve its original Strategic Implementation Action Plan designed to massively develop the Niger Delta, which fortunately has been ignored for a very long time by the Federal Government.
Noting that for the challenges presently confronting the region to be frontally tackled, Federal Government must take both practical and pragmatic steps to hold a sincere conversation with Niger Deltans aimed at operationalizing modular refineries in the region anchored on the tripod of receipt system, transparent pricing and supervised via a statutory body established by enabling acts for that purpose/objective.
Finally, they praised GbarmatuVoice for providing such a formidable and viable platform for periodic discussion of socioeconomic interests geared towards moving the Niger Delta region out of the woods.
The gathering has Prof. Tosan Harriman, Lecturer, Bayero University, Kano, as keynote speaker, while Navy Commodore Nesiama Omtseye (Rtd), NNPP Delta South Senatorial Candidate and Alabo (Dr.) Nengi James, OON, 2nd Vice President, Ijaw National Congress (INC), also presented papers.
Others who spoke at the event include, representative of NDDC Delta State Director, Engr. Jeremiah Oritsejolone, Assistant Director, NDDC; Chief (Engr.) Don Ben Douyegha, PANDEF Youth leader; Engr. Jato Abido, National Coordinator, Niger Delta Youth Council, NDYC; Comrade Austin Ozobo, President, Ijaw Peoples Development Association (IPDI), Comrade Jackson Timiyan, community leader; Comrade Ellington Bakumor, ex-agitator, among others.