MUDIAGA: Administrators Of Programme Must Be Tested, Above Board
Taking a hard look at the Amnesty Programme, the brainchild of ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua and immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Akpo Mudiaga Odje, spoke with HENDRIX OLIOMOGBE on the way forward in the administration of the programme.
How will you assess the amnesty programme under the Goodluck Jonathan administration?
WELL, it will take a more detailed symposium to assess the Amnesty Programme under erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan, but suffice it to say, however, that Jonathan, as the Vice President at that material time, mid-wifed and drove the Amnesty Programme from the genesis before the advent of the present administration on May 29. In that regard, I would give kudos to the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua for a well-thought vision for peace and empowerment of our gallant freedom fighters of the Niger-Delta. The programme, though, had some defects in its implementation, as stakeholders, hitherto, called for all embracing programme, I think the Goodluck Administration nevertheless kept hope alive in that respect.
What would you say about President Buhari’s approach to the amnesty programme so far?
We are yet to see the approach of President Muhammadu Buhari, however, he had hinted, in his maiden address, that he will drive the amnesty programme from where he met it, but we expect some reforms as he promised.
What steps do you think the government of Buhari should take to avoid some noticeable pitfalls in the programme?
The steps to be taken are transparency, fairness and justice in the implementation of the Amnesty Programme. We want all who are qualified from all the ethnic groups of the Niger Delta to benefit from their struggle and resources. Once this is done, there will be peace, equal rights. Equal treatment, including payment of all outstanding arrears, tuition fees, and empowerment should be equally disbursed and distributed.
Considering the fact that Buhari lost woefully in the Niger Delta, don’t you think he may scrap the programme or starve it of funds?
The President has declared that ‘I belong to everybody and to nobody.’ I verily, believe him and his impeccable integrity. I see him as a fair minded person who knows the pain of the people of the Niger Delta, especially, our sons and daughters, who fought in the creeks for years, to gain recognition and amnesty from the Nigerian State.
In my paper presented in London on August 24, 2008 at a Conference at Old Kent Road, London, I labeled them as freedom fighters, and we, as intellectual militants, all working together for our emancipation and self-determination in accordance with Article 1807 of the United Nations Declaration of 1962. President Buhari will neither scrap nor starve our battered region the funds required to drive home this lofty programme. If he does otherwise, we shall respectively persuade him with superior arguments and intense lobbying as a father of the nation to heed the cry of his starved children.
What do you think will be the cost to the nation should ex-militants return to arms?
We hope and pray that the Nigeria Nation will not allow anyone to take up arms anymore to fight our beloved country. Now is the time to join forces with President Buhari to fight insecurity in Nigeria. We want peace and security as enshrined in Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
We lost too many people, and devastated our region in the battle for self-determination by our freedom fighters and intellectual militants. We shall only constructively and constitutionally engage the Nigerian State on issues affecting our deprived people of the oil and gas rich Niger Delta region of the country.
What is the way forward?
The way forward is a just, transparent and credible implementation of the Amnesty programme to all on equal basis and mutual respect. The administrators of the programme must be above board, tested, experienced and as patriotic as the incumbent President in the administration of the funds and the programme, knowing that he is a trustee to both Nigeria and the people of the Niger Delta.
The Federal Government should endeavor to make funds available to drive the programme since the resource rich, but impoverished Niger Delta region of the country is the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg of Oil and Gas resources of Nigeria, so we believe that funding should not be a problem. Periodic assessments, Seminars, Consultations and Monitoring of the programme by the Federal Government will enhance efficiency and transparency.
Above all, outstanding obligations to beneficiaries of the programme, including payment of arrears of allowances and tuition fees, as well as allied responsibilities should be discharged by the Federal Government in accordance with the tenor of the Amnesty concordance brokered by late President Umaru Yar’ Adua.
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