As at the time of Professor Charles Dokubo’s appointment as Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, you will agree that there was increasing dissent, frustration, and rumblings across the rank and file of former agitators and leaders of the struggle for the liberation and emancipation of the Niger Delta. Much before then, we had always stated in very clear terms, our preference for a technocrat with a strong academic and diplomatic pedigree over a career politician or retired military officer.
Key stakeholders had agreed that the programme had lost track.
The programme was fast turning into a Poverty Alleviation Programme for politicians and their followers rather than a Presidential Amnesty Programme that was established after Presidential Yar’Adua proclaimed a 60-day amnesty programme for militants in the Niger Delta on June 25, 2009, as a step towards resolving the protracted insecurity in the region.
The terms of the Amnesty included the willingness and readiness of militants to surrender their arms, unconditionally renounce militancy and then sign an undertaking to this effect.
In return, the Government of the Nigerian State pledged its commitment to institute programs to assist their disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation, and provision of reintegration assistance to the militants.
That had not been the case for a long while and we believe that the administrators of the Nigerian state recognized this and acted upon it in good enough time.
Our people were being abandoned at training and academic centers across the world. Former agitators were being shortchanged with faulty training and empowerment programs at ill-equipped vocational training centers.
Amnesty beneficiaries were being abandoned at various locations across the world. At Universities and other centers where they were sent for training. Many of those who were trained returned to Nigeria and were abandoned and left to their fate.
There were cases where they were insulted and talked down upon when they rose up to protest and demand just recompense.
It is our belief that Professor Dokubo’s strong credentials will be brought to bear in dealing with the challenges that the Amnesty programme is facing today. He has started on a very strong note.
Key stakeholders have also risen to support him. We appreciate the show of humility, wisdom and exceptional diplomacy that he has brought to the table.
A teacher of long years standing and a Research Professor of International Diplomacy, Nuclear Proliferation and Defence Studies, we do not expect Professor Dokubo to come to the table with a military hangover and talk down on our boys.
We also commend very strongly the efforts of the current National Security Adviser, King’s College Lagos educated General Babagana Monguno for much of the intelligence we see deployed to managing the challenge in the Niger Delta.
We doubt that the successes we see today would have been possible if everything was left to the politicians.
For God’s sake, we have ensured that oil production in the Niger Delta reached an all-time high. It is the effort of the gallant and resilient former agitators of the Niger Delta that has made it possible for the Nigerian state to overcome the horrifying recession that almost crippled Nigeria.
Charles Quaker Dokubo’s appointment came at a time when there was growing disenchantment with the Amnesty programme. Many of those who had hitherto accepted amnesty were being to consider returning to armed struggle. There were increasing reports that former agitators were getting involved in illegal refinery operations in creeks across the Niger Delta. There were also reports that increasing numbers of former agitators were being arrested for armed robbery, kidnapping, and extortion across the states of the Niger Delta.
Today, there are signs that things may be changing. Even former agitators who did not want to have anything to do with the Amnesty programme have suddenly woken up to the new reality.
For the first time in the history of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, all former leaders of the struggle for the liberation and emancipation of the Niger Delta, have all come together to ensure that peace TRULY and FULLY returns to the Niger Delta.
We commend all leaders of the Niger Delta for the newfound vigor. We pray that this vigor converts to substance.
We commend Victor Ebikabowei aka Field Marshall Boyloaf, founding leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta MEND for inspiring the new commitment for peace.
We cannot fail to commend Mujahid Dokubo Asari, flagbearer of the Niger Delta struggle and founder of the Niger Delta People Volunteer Front (NDPVF) for his sudden decision to support the success of the Amnesty Programme and his recent campaign to end illegal refinery operations in the Niger Delta. His current campaign to expose the dangers that illegal crude oil refining does to our environment remains one of the loudest in the Nigerian and international social media space.
The efforts of the Government Ekpemupolo will never be undermined.
In spite of the challenges that face him today, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo has continued to work for the full enthronement of peace, progress and development in the Niger Delta even as great cost to his life. He has continued to commit great measures of resources towards ensuring that the Amnesty program and peace in the Niger Delta succeeds.
Without fail, we cannot forget the effort of private players like Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs. Recently, Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs, Chairman of Platform Petroleum partnered with Google Inc., to provide a training programme on Digital Marketing Skills for Niger Delta youths, many of whom were products of the Presidential Amnesty Programme. This training programme was offered free. The entire cost of the programme was borne by Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs.
This is the kind of value that we will continue to encourage from established private citizens of the Niger Delta. Peace will always promote progress.
It is our firm belief that peace supersedes all. It is also our belief that the government of the Nigerian State must rise up in full and cater to the challenges of the shortchanged people of the Niger Delta.
There is a grim rise in poverty in the Niger Delta. Poverty remains the greatest disruptor of peace. The Nigerian state will fail if poverty is allowed to WIN in the Niger Delta.
While Nigeria may have left recession, the families across the Niger Delta remain in recession. Good education, Medicare and many others continue to be a luxury for many in the Niger Delta.
This should not be allowed to continue. It should, therefore, be the mandate song of all stakeholders.
Cynthia White is the Spokesperson, Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC)
June 2, 2018