16 September 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – NIGERIA’s Presidential Amnesty Office, Saturday, raised the alarm about an alleged plot to cause mayhem in the Niger Delta by some “seemingly disgruntled youths in the region”.
The alarm came amid a brewing crisis among Niger Delta ex-agitators over alleged exclusion of ex-militants of Urhobo and Itsekiri ethnic extraction in Delta State from the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP.
The Presidential Amnesty Office operates the PAP.
The Itsekiri, under the aegis of Itsekiri National Youths Council, INYC, recently, petitioned the House of Representatives, over the purported segregation of 2,000 former militants of Itsekiri extraction from the amnesty programme.
But tension heightened, last week, when ex-militants of Urhobo ethnic nationality threatened to return to the creeks if they were not included in the recently approved third phase amnesty training.
At the weekend, ex-combatants of Ijaw origin, under the aegis of Niger-Delta Liberation Force, NDLF, described the clamour of their Urhobo and Itsekiri counterparts as provocative, and vowed to confront them if found carrying out any protest on the streets of Delta state.
Spokesperson of the group, ‘Captain’ Mark Anthony, asserted that the Urhobo and Itsekiri youths did not take part in militant activities for which the Federal Government proclaimed an amnesty programme in 2009 and were only trying to reap from where they did not sow.
The Presidential Amnesty Office, Saturday, said it had been reliably informed that the amnesty programme is the target of a series of proposed politically-motivated protests to begin from Uyo in Akwa Ibom State and spread to other oil producing states.
It said in a statement: We deem it necessary to inform Nigerians and the unsuspecting public that some politicians have surreptitiously been funding ill-motivated campaigns, which have taken the form of protest marches, against the amnesty programme and the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, who oversees the programme, in order to score cheap political points.
The statement went on: “Perhaps sponsors of such protests have become uncomfortable with the rising profile of Mr Kuku, particularly in his home state of Ondo.
For the avoidance of doubt, the amnesty programme is insulated from serving the interests of any political party and has been religiously executing its mandate of training and reintegrating beneficiaries regardless of their political leaning.
We therefore urge those trying to drag the programme unnecessarily into politics to desist.
We also implore security agencies in the country, particularly in the Niger Delta, to be alert to their constitutional responsibility of ensuring safety and security of lives and property.
‘WE ARE EXCLUDED’
The Itsekiri, in their protest signed by Messrs David Tonwe and Isaac Dorsu, National President and General Secretary, respectively, of the INYC, addressed to to the Speaker, Alhaji Waziri Tambuwal, and which sporked a response from Ijaw, said, “We are constrained to draw your attention to the deliberate refusal of the Presidential Special Adviser on Niger Delta, Mr Kingsley Kuku, whose office is saddled with the responsibility of implementing the post-amnesty programme in the Niger Delta region, to accommodate ‘qualified’ youths of Itsekiri extraction into the post-amnesty programme, despite the fact that these former armed youths had given up all illegal arms to representatives of the then amnesty committee.
They said the former Itsekiri militants had completely renounced militancy, in response to the June 2005-2009 proclamation of amnesty for Niger Delta militants.
” It is now clear to us that Mr Kuku is least interested in accommodating any ‘qualified’ youth of Itsekiri extraction into the post-amnesty programme, and the reason for this anti-Itsekiri position can, among others, be located within the context of the inter-Ijaw and Itsekiri differences.
“Given the extent to which he is prepared to go in denying any Itsekiri youth, irrespective of meeting the necessary requirements for participating in the post-amnesty programme, we are constrained to humbly seek the intervention of this House,” they said.
Also, the Urhobo Youth Council, UYC, in a petition to President Goodluck Jonathan, signed by its national president, Henry Baro and two others, drew the President’s attention to the large scale exclusion of the Urhobo from the post-amnesty programme of the Federal Government.
The group lamented the fact that virtually all positions in the president’s government were reserved for Ijaw people, to the exclusion of other ethnic groups in Delta State.
The letter read: “We are constrained to write you this open letter to bring to your notice and necessary attention the gross margina-lisation of Urhobo people and the appropriation of all appointments, projects and empowerment by the Ijaw nationality to the detriment of their neighbours and other ethnic nationalities in South-South geo-political zone.
NDLF spokesperson, in a statement, filled with vitriol, said, “The attention of true ex-combatants in Niger Delta has been drawn to series of unguided and provocative comments and publications by some misguided youths of Urhobo/ Itsekiri ethnic nationalities, clamouring for inclusion into the third phase of the federal amnesty programme, something they know nothing about”.
He asserted that the utterances of Urhobo and Itsekiri ex-militants “is seen as a challenge to us and calls for another round of gun battle, except, they stay away from amnesty matters for the interest of peace and their lives”.