ERADIRI: Buhari Should Look At Programme Positively, Make Adjustment Where Necessary

Mr. Eradiri Udengs is the President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC). He told WILLIE ETIM, in Yenagoa that if



President Muhmmadu Buhari looks at the amnesty programme positively, the benefits will add value to his administration and build confidence among stakeholders and youths of the Niger Delta region.

President Buhari seems to be responding to issues relating to the amnesty programme, how was this made possible?
FIRST all of all, commendation must go to the media. They have shown commendable concern on the issues relating to the programme, by bringing it to the front burner. The whole thing is about sending the right massage to the principal, by this, I mean President Buhari. The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) got very concerned, made several representations alongside other major stakeholders.

The programme is not about the payment of N65,000 to ex-agitator, it’s about the young persons, who have used that opportunity to get into the universities that will build capacity and bring added value to the development of Niger Delta region. The amnesty is human capacity building and development of the mind, which will lead to better information processing.

And so, the young people in universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Africa and within the country are the ones that are really of concern to us. We had, at several times, met and tried to reach out to the leadership of the country, wrote several letters, used the media and it eventually paid off. I want to once again commend the media for consistently hammering on the issues and the whole world can now see that it was a just cause.

The programme is of value to Nigeria, if it is allowed to breakdown, it will affect the economic fortune of this country. Everybody got concerned, and today, we have seen the result and we commend President Buhari for appointing a coordinator for the programme.

What is your charge to the new coordinator?
He should hit the ground running and begin to face the issues of institutions that are accommodating the beneficiaries. He should pay those beneficiaries in school, their stipend that was earmarked for them, because most of them are paying their accommodation in the UK and other places on a monthly basis. For three months now, the beneficiaries have not been paid, some of them have been thrown out of schools and there are a lot of complaints.

So, we expect him to immediately hit the ground running, and we, in the IYC, will be very willing to join hands with him, to ensure that we stabilise the programme. Of course, we have been dissuading our people from protesting and all those things that would have worsened the situation. But in hitting the ground, running, he must first of all make sure that those 13students that were driven away from school for not meeting their financial obligations must be funded, the students at the Lufthansa Institute must return to school. The new coordinator must make sure that those bills are paid and other obligations met, otherwise the country’s money would have been wasted.

Millions and millions of dollars and pounds have been invested in this programme, let us not waste it, let’s sustain this programme, and see it to completion. The new coordinator should pay great attention to education. We are very much aware that there are serious allegations of corruption and mismanagement of the amnesty fund, but he should not allow those allegations to dissuade him from performing his duty.

A lot of people are suspicious that there is a lot of fraud within the system especially by way of fictitious names among the beneficiary, but the new coordinator will address all of these problems. It will be proper for him to look at the expansion of the programme to accommodate other beneficiaries. Of course, I can remember when the present leadership was campaigning; they talked about the possibility of expanding the programme.

Stakeholders are expressing fear over the termination of the programme?
There shouldn’t be such fear, When the late President Yar’Adua inaugurated the programme, the government then planned to terminate it in five or six years. During the last administration, they were always talking about December 15, as the terminal date, and so, it will be wrong for people to allude that President Buhari has already fixed the terminal date for the programme, he only came to reiterate the terminal date already fixed by the last administration.

People should disregard the insinuation that Buhari is coming to cancel the programme or fight the Niger Delta Youths. But in going forward, there were certain adjustments that were made that could affect the terminal date, those are the arguments. They started the programme with over 20,000 beneficiaries, along the line, another 6,000 beneficiaries were approved.

Know that, further approvals were made in-between the programme to accommodate other agitators, who were not captured in the earlier schedule. So, ordinarily, when, in the middle of the programme, you accommodated 6,000 people, and then, towards the end, you then accommodated another 3,000, it is only expected that the terminal date will be moved forward and given and extended life span to accommodate the adjustments.

If this programme is to be terminated, the management should pay upfront the tuitions of the beneficiary so that they will not be stranded while others can be accommodated in PDTF, NDDC and other such agencies, so that those existing structure of scholarship by the state will now take over and manage the other ones as spill over. It is certain that the programme, no doubt, will be terminated at some point, but for us, we think that President Buhari must have to look at that decision again.

He should ask the question whether it is actually feasible to terminate the programme at this point in time, when it is believed that government is a continuum. He should look at the possibility of creating other windows of opportunity for other beneficiaries and the youths of the Niger Delta region. He should do a holistic assessment of the programme and ascertain how the programme has impacted on the beneficiaries. This is the preliminary observation we expect from a government that means well before talking about the terminal date.

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