Johannesburg - Sixteen ex-Niger Delta militants have received the Commercial Pilot License (CPL) from the Afrika Union Aviation Academy (AUAA) in Mafikeng, South Africa, the academy's director, Capt. Allan Roebuck, has said.
He made the disclosure on Sunday during the institution’s graduation ceremony held at the weekend, adding that the ex-militants completed 37 flying procedures to enable them obtain the CPL certificate.
"It is a long road to success. It is a lot of hard work, discipline, focus and punctuality for these individuals to be able to obtain their CPL certificates.
"With the certificate they can work anywhere in the world as commercial pilots because the aviation industry is a global brand.
"They were tested in all the flying procedures and they are trusted to fly as commercial pilots," Roebuck said.
He then urged the new pilots to keep flying alive after their graduation.
In his remarks, Mr. Kinsley Kuku, the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta and Head of federal government’s amnesty programme, praised the former militants.
He said the successful completion of the training programme of the pilots is a part of government's peace initiative for the Niger Delta.
"I must commend the late Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua for his peace initiative aimed at resolving the Niger Delta crisis and tackling the region’s under-development and environmental issues.
"The amnesty initiative came about when the military intervention failed.
"I must also commend Jonathan and the National Assembly for believing in the peace initiative by making funds available for the amnesty programmes," Kuku said.
He said many people did not believe in the ability of the ex-militants to be trained as pilots.
"The training of these boys from across the Niger Delta region of Nigeria is a commendable commitment of the Nigerian government to building a strong nation.
"Aviation is a global brand. With their commercial license certificate they can work anywhere in the world.
"I must tell you that President Jonathan is very proud of you all. He has asked me to congratulate you and promised to host you to a dinner in Nigeria soon," Kuku said.
In his remarks, a member of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Sen. George Sekibo, said the amnesty programmes' success had shown that Jonathan was clearly on the right path.
"It has shown that President Jonathan is solving Nigerian problems and not those of the Niger Delta alone.
"The President may not know what he has achieved by this. It is not just training young pilots, but turning around lives in Nigeria. This type of training is building a new Nigerian nation by empowering the youths.
"We at the National Assembly are impressed and happy with the success recorded," Sekibo said.
He urged the pilots to continue to pursue excellence in all their endeavors.
Also speaking, the Chairman, House Committee on Niger Delta, Mr Wariman Ogoriba, commended the graduating pilots for making Nigeria proud.
"I personally must thank you for making Nigeria proud and for being good ambassadors of the country.
"With the success recorded and what we have seen, whenever more money is required by the Amnesty Office, appropriate fund will be approved by the National Assembly," Ogoriba said.