By Daniel Dafe
Ovie of Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom in Ethiope East Local Government of Delta State and first Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), HRM (AVM) Lucky Ochuko Ararile (rtd.), Avwaeke 1, has urged the Interim Administrator of the programme, Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd.), to redesign the PAP to meet the expectations of the people.
Speaking when Dikio visited him on Friday in Oria, the outspoken monarch said that the programme was hijacked and looked like an ethnic thing and not for the Niger Delta.
According to the Monarch, the programme which was designed for the whole of Niger Delta region was supposed to be for a period of five years.
He identified the issue of lack of funding as part of the problem while he served in the capacity as Coordinator, as he commended the initiative of President Yar’Adua for initiating the East-West Road and the construction of the Coastal Rail Line to link all the Niger Delta States.
The traditional ruler also advised the Interim Administrator to see the assignment as a thankless job.
While congratulating him, on his appointment, he opined that the amnesty boss is “more than qualified for the appointment,” adding: “you have a very intimidating credential both in theory and practice of peace making and issues of disarmament, mobilsation and reintegration.”
He continued: “I retired from the Airforce in 2010 and I was the Chief Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme in 2009.
“Specifically, it was inaugurated by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on the 25th of June 2009. There was a planning committee that came up with a plan for the programme before I was appointed and my assignment was to implement it. “When we took over we met with a lot of challenges because immediately Yar’Adua appointed us, he fell ill.”
On the issue of the money paid the militants, he said their feeding was pegged at N1500 a day and thus N45, 000 monthly and then 20, 000 monthly stipends after they live the camp.
Adding: “Training was supposed to be two weeks per batch and immediately you finish you were to be paid N20, 000.
“Because the president was indisposed, a lot of decision that ought to have been made could not be made and it was to the benefit of the militants.
“When we started, the plan was 5, 000 militants while the committee suggested 10, 000. When we started disarming, we got about 10, 000 and by the time I handed over we had about 20, 000 that we were paying.
“The initial plan at the beginning was that there was a programme for the ex-militants and then another for the region to tackle regional development. The second was majorly for infrastructure. That was when they started hearing of Coastal Line, East West Road and all that in the developmental stage. The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was also a part of the amnesty programme. We were looking for a holistic way of solving the problem of the Niger Delta once and for all and not just militants.
“After the militants it would have been the programme looking at other youths by way of infrastructural development.
“Sadly, the rail way line, nothing has been done; the East West Road has become a drain pipe. The PIB has still been in the making since 2009 and the National Assembly is still talking about concluding it in six months time. So you can see the lack of seriousness in addressing the issues of the Niger Delta.”
Speaking further, he disclosed that there were five committees then and one of them was for infrastructure, saying that they were not inaugurated because of the president’s ill health.
He said: “President Yaradua was passionate about the Niger Delta unlike what we had after me even when a Niger Deltan was president. He was to invest 4 billion dollars in the Niger Delta.”
The monarch who wondered how from the 20, 000 captured then reports of some of them going abroad to fly airplanes and others studying medicine said ton their list of militants, those with secondary school certificate were not up to 100.
“The plan then was to train them in skills,” he averred.
Earlier, Col. Dixon described Ararile as an outstanding retired military officer, saying he has come to receive royal blessings and to also tap from his wealth of experience in order to move the Presidential Amnesty Programme forward in achieving the vision of making entrepreneurship out of the ex-agitators and pursuing a total reformation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
He noted that the programme had become an Abuja thing, but said that they are working to take it back to the people of the Niger Delta.
He said that the payment of N65, 000 created a dependency syndrome and that the training package has somehow not recognized the unique attributes and environment of the Niger Delta, stressing that apart from the militants been taken care of, under him the other committees will work effectively to bring change to the Niger Delta.
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