Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Elder statesman, Niger Delta Leader, and former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, has advised the Federal Government to jettisoned the plan to scrap the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), for ex-agitators in the region, warning it not to wake up a sleeping lion.
Addressing the press virtually on Monday, Clark said, the advise to government to thread cautiously is not a threat; but a clarion call for peace.
According to him, the Amnesty programme affects the security of the area hence, no one should play with it.
The elder statesman said he has had cause in the past to cautioned the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to tread cautiously on Niger Delta Affairs, warning the Federal Government, to desist from anything that will truncate the fragile peace in the Niger Delta region.
He said: “Just about 11 days ago, I held a Press Briefing advising and cautioning the Vice President, His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, to tread cautiously on Niger Delta Affairs, I have cause to, again, advice/warn the Federal Government, to desist from anything that will truncate the fragile peace that we have in the Niger Delta region. I say this because, just yesterday, rumours were rife, that the 4-man investigative panel headed by Amb. A. A. Lawal, set up by the Federal Government, through the Office of the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Mohammed Monguno (rtd), to look into the activities of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), has recommended the scrapping of the Programme by December this year, 2020. If this is true, it will be an epic example of what we say in local parlance ‘trouble dey sleep, yanga go wake am’. This is not a threat; it is stating the obvious of what will actually happen.
“When I got this information yesterday (Sunday), my temper was high because how can a region which contributes so much to the economic growth, and by extension, political and social growth of the country be treated with so much disdain and spite.
I recall the sacrifices some of us made before a compromise of setting up the Presidential Amnesty Programme was arrived at.”
Clark said, it took elders of the region several efforts to convince their youth to down their tool which led, to the creation of the amnesty programme.
According to him, prominent illustrious sons took the risk of going into the creeks pleading with the youths to lay down their arms and embrace the amnesty programme.
Clark, noted that for a long time, the PAP office was not functioning properly. Adding that, “Various students on the scholarship of the programme at home and abroad, were stranded, because their remittances were stopped, so they started agitating. I had to petition President Buhari to appoint someone to head the office. Maj. Gen. Paul Boro (rtd) was appointed to head the place. He was later removed due to allegations of corruption and maladministration. Then Prof. Charles Quaker Dokubo of the Institute of International Affairs was appointed to replace. Maj. Gen. Paul Boro, rtd. He too was removed or suspended allegedly for same reasons as Maj. Gen. Boro rtd. All these were done without any reference to or input from the leaders of the area.
“Infact it is alleged that during the time of Prof. Dokubo, people from other regions feasted on the office. He appointed someone from Kogi State in the name of a Consultant, whom it is alleged he is in league with, to employ some unqualified staff. Sons and daughters of the Niger Delta region were sacked or removed from office particularly the graduates of the Programmes, most of who graduated with First Class and Second Class Upper from their various Universities. We protested this unjust treatment to the Federal Government, and the reaction was a communication to us through the then Minister of Budget and Planning, Barrister Udo Udoma. Most of these youths are roaming the Streets today, unemployed. This matter will be a subject of discussion on another day. The PAP Office is now filled up with non-Niger Deltans.
“It was said that Prof. Dokubo awarded a freight contract to this Consultant to carry equipment from the Kaiama Skill Acquisition Centre at the sum of ₦1.8 billion, to some locations. It was further alleged that in order not to default the Procurement Act of the Government, Prof. Dokubo had to split the payment of the amount to 25 Companies. When the invoice was presented for payment, the Financial Controller refused to act on it because it was at variance with the Procurement Act. This resulted into disagreements, and the fallout is several petitions which were written by various persons accusing and counter accusing officials of the PAP.
“The Federal Government, like I said earlier, through the Office of the National Security adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno, rtd, set up a 4-man Investigative Panel headed by Amb. A. A. Lawal, from Bauchi State and other three northners as members, on 28th February, 2020, and the job of this Panel, which all through its sitting, I understand, sat in the Office of the NSA, which was to end on 24th April, 2020, has lingered until today, they have, uptill this moment, taken over the administration of the PAP, operating from the NSA’s Office. “Now we are getting information, that this ‘Investigative Panel’ is recommending the scrapping of the PAP by December this year, 2020.
“The question is, did Amb. Lawal and his team ever travel to the Niger Delta region to find out if the objective of setting up the Programme such as infrastructural development of sand filling; building low cost houses, building roads, etc, which are to be carried out by the PAP as its Second Phase activities contained in the Proclamation, been achieved? “As someone outside of the region does he really understand or feel the sufferings of the people of the region? Also, what measures have been put in place by the Federal Government to fulfill its promises to the region such as setting up modular refineries, the relocation of the operational headquarters of the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and the Ogoni Clean-Up as contained in the 16-Point Agenda of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) which we presented to Mr. President at the Presidential Villa on 1st November, 2017?
“Our living condition in the region has worsened. The PAP should be allowed to continue for some more time.
“Once again, I wish to advise the Federal Government to tread cautiously, except they have prepared another ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’. Wake not a sleeping lion. This is not a threat; it is a clarion call for peace.”