MANAGERS OF NIGERIA’S GOVERNMENT AMNESTY PROCESS DOES NOT HAVE THE INTELLECTUAL KNOW- HOW TO HANDLE IT – COMRADE SUNNY OFEHE.

Comrade Sunny Ofehe, President Hope for the Niger Delta Campaigns.

Comrade Sunny Ofehe is no doubt a journalist’s delight anytime, The Delta State born Human Rights Activist and a motivational speaker whose organisation: Hope for the Niger Delta Campaign HNDC (an Organisation that is dedicated towards bringing peace to the troubled Niger Delta) who recently hosted a well attended International conference in the Hague, Netherlands spoke to Destination Nigeria yesterday in an exclusive interview in his organisation’s headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Comrade Ofehe bared his mind on the State of the Amnesty programme of the federal government and the peace process in the Niger Delta Region. Excerpts:

THE HAGUE CONFERENCE.

One of our major goals during the conference was to bring together all the stakeholders that have been involved in the problem and possible solutions in the Nigeria- Government, Federal state and Local Government level ,we also extended to some special committees in the National Assembly committees (that were primarily focused on the issues in the Niger Delta) we also extended invitation to the civil society groups and even to the ex- militants.

Of course I heard Asari Dokubo was in the Netherlands…

It was not supposed to be only Asari Dokubo attending the conference but at the end of the day he was the only ex-militant we had. Unfortunately, the Dutch embassy denied visa to many of the ex-militants. We invited Soboma George the one who just died. Majority of them actually went to the Dutch Embassy for visa but were denied visa. According to the Dutch Embassy, it was for private reasons. But we got to later understand that there is an embargo on them not to travel to Europe by the European Union not just the Dutch Authorities. That these guys to some extent are terrorist and have not been cleared to leave the country at the time to come to Europe. So this was a rule they were trying to observe. But at the end of the day we were able to secure a considerable number of people representing this multi- facet groups so as to be able to sit down together and map out a sustainable process towards which those goals of consolidating the amnesty of the Federal Government, making sure that the Ex-militants don’t return to the creeks to start taking up guns again and also to see how we can put pressure on the government and the multinational oil companies to start community development projects that can engage the people and make them to have something to do so as to not to create that room for them to start thinking that violence can be the only means.

When you look at the February which was when the conference was held, there has been a considerable improvement in the peace process. Why do I say that, we have seen less violence lately, we have seen the Nigerian oil producing capacity jumped from the very low 1.2 million barrels per day to about 2.1, 2.2 million barrels per day presently which is hundred percent. We have seen complete surrender to the amnesty process by these ex-militants. The training programme has begun in Obubua and most of them are following the process. And just recently, many have been deployed to their various schools but on National level while others are waiting for the batches that will embark on international training.

ON THE ABUJA PROTEST BY THE EX- MILITANTS:

Well I heard about people holding Abuja to standstill, creating civil disobedience in the streets of Abuja over the amnesty process. We must not forget something that the amnesty process a lot of money have been voted into the process and we cannot over rule the fact that people would be in certain committees to see how they can use corrupt means to enrich themselves from the process and we must not also forget that coordinating this amnesty, these ex-militants in a proper way cannot come without its disadvantages. And so you see people who feel that well we were not properly taken along during consultation or what we have been given is not in proportion to what some other ex-militants in others states have been given so we have seen that kind of cry coming out from the process. So there is bound to be a fraction of people who are not satisfied with the process and may want to vent their dissatisfactions at the very Abuja level so as to create attention to themselves and also we cannot rule out the fact that some unscrupulous politicians who are looking at a way of discrediting certain people’s efforts in the ongoing amnesty process may also want to hire some of these boys and use them to foment trouble by passing wrong information as to the Federal Government gave 10 Million to you guys and some people are sitting on the 10 Million they don’t want share the money and they don’t want to give you what is your share, or this facility you are getting is supposed to be more than this but they are doing it like that. We cannot over rule that. But I am not saying that this is why the Abuja thing happened. But one thing I know for sure is that the amnesty process has its disadvantages and advantages because the people the government has put there don’t have the intellectual know-how as to managing conflict particularly when it comes to the level of managing people who have been violent before and bringing them together so that is why the importation of foreign experts to help train these guys in the camp is a good idea but it does not solve all the facial problems that the amnesty process is trying to bring in. Now having said all these, the people who went to Abuja had their legitimate claims from where I am sitting here today, I also see some things going wrong and those thing are: when their tends to be peace, when the people are following the process, the government have a way of backing out and not fulfilling their complete promise until there is an agitation and there is this all of sudden, a small crisis that brings everybody attention to the very thing that is happening . And then the government pumps in money .No you don’t need to wait until the people are revolting before you do what you have promised. The way they have orchestrated the amnesty process , whether the boys are following the process or not, whether the process is peaceful or not, whether Nigeria has been able to attain its crude oil production target or not, Government must always make sure that it addresses the fundamental problems of the Niger Delta Region through the process.

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