Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
A group of former agitators drawn from states in the South South has warned President Muhammadu Buhari’s political appointees and other top government officials to desist from making provocative pronouncements which can truncate the fragile peace in the restive Niger Delta.
The group was reacting to a statement credited to Special Adviser to the Minister on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Charles Achodo, to the effect that the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) is unsustainable.
The former agitators, in a statement issued yesterday, in Abuja, after a meeting, under the aegis of Niger Delta Progressive Front (NDPF), called on the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, to call his aide to order.
Achodo was quoted as saying, at the 7th Sustainability in the Extractive Industry (SITEI) conference, organised by CSR-in-Action in Abuja, that, “a situation where you are paying people N65,000 every month, to keep quiet, does not solve the problem. If you multiply N65,000 by the number of militants and by the number of years the programme has been running, you are looking at close to N50 billion. That is a huge amount of money. It is not sustainable and it is not guaranteeing you what you expect in the place.”
He, also, reportedly said the current PAP of the federal government, “with fat budgetary provision,” remains unsustainable, as it does not totally address the challenges of the region to guarantee lasting peace.
NDPF described Achodo’s remarks as uncalled for, provocative and capable of heating up the relative stable environment of the Niger Delta and precipitating restiveness in the zone.
The statement signed by NDPF leader, Angus Galabagalaba, warned that any attempt by the federal government or its appointees, to play politics with the amnesty programme would be met with dire consequences. It called on Achodo to apologise to the people of the Niger Delta for his unguarded statement.
“We want to believe that he did not make the statement credited to him, or he was quoted out of context, particularly, on his claim of fat budgetary provision for the PAP programme, which is grossly underfunded, considering the fact that sustaining peace is a serious and expensive venture. Government should not dream of tinkering with the amnesty programme, as such would trigger another round of hostilities in the Niger Delta, capable of bringing the country to its knees,” the group warned.
It said the federal government’s purported plan, according to Achodo, to invest about N1.7 trillion in the Niger Delta region, before 2021, to address developmental challenges and create employment for the teeming population, has no bearing, but just a political gimmick to sustain a seamless flow of petro-dollars accruing from crude oil, into its coffers.