Abuja - The Presidential Amnesty Office (PAO) has appealed to Boko Haram sect to emulate former Niger Delta region militants by making its agitations known through dialogue with the federal government.
Mr Kingsley Kuku, the Chairman of the PAO, made the appeal in Abuja on Monday while commemorating the three years anniversary of the Presidential Amnesty proclamation for former Niger Delta militants.
He said that Boko Haram and Niger Delta militants’ agitations might be different but it was obvious that there was poverty in the north.
Kuku, who is the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, said that poverty might be responsible for Boko Haram’s agitation in the north.
He urged leaders of the sect to come out and make their agitations known to the Federal Government as the ex-militants in the Niger Delta did.
Kuku restated the federal government’s commitment to engage, empowering and re-integrating the sect members to ensure peace, safety and security in Nigerians.
He said that the office was making efforts to convince the federal government to reconsider some militants, who surrendered and submit their arms and ammunitions to the Joint Task Force after the amnesty programme.
"The amnesty office is currently persuading ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government to seek out ways of engaging or empowering thousands of unemployed youths in the Niger Delta.
"The mandate of the amnesty office does not include providing training or manpower development opportunities outside the 26,358 Niger Delta ex-agitators enrolled in the Presidential Amnesty Programme,’’ Kuku said.
He said the biggest challenge of the programme was the distracting activities of thousands of youths in the Niger Delta states, who were incessantly agitating to be included in the programme.
"The truth of this matter is that a number of these youths were former agitators, who initially scorned the offer of amnesty and refused to surrender their weapons to security agencies at the stipulated time.’’
He said that when these youths discovered that the post-amnesty programme was working, they started agitating to be included in the programme.
"We explain that they cannot be included in the programme since they did not come out on or before 4 October 2009 to drop their arms and accept the offer of amnesty from the federal government.’’
Kuku urged state governments to initiate youth empowerment programmes that would deal with conflict resolution and reconciliation issues in communities.
He said that the relative peace in the restive Niger Delta had led to an astronomic growth in the nation’s economy.
"From a paltry production level of 800,000 barrels crude oil per day at the peak of the Niger Delta crisis in the first quarter of 2009, Nigeria currently produces between 2.4 and 2.6 million barrels per day.
"Computed with prevailing exchange rate of about N160 to $1, daily production savings for Nigeria and the Joint Venture partners currently stands at a minimum of N33.4 billion per day."
He added: "Given that oil production in Nigeria hovered between 2.4 and 2.6 barrels for all of 2011, it will be safe to emphatically assert that savings for Nigeria and the Joint venture partners for year ending 2011 is estimated to be a whopping N6 trillion."
He said that the office had successfully placed no fewer than 11,525 former agitators in skills acquisition/training centres as well as in formal education within the country and offshore.
"Of this number, 4,929 are being trained offshore while the balance of 6,382 have either been returned to formal education or have been placed in skill acquisition centres within the country.
"Similarly, 6,067 transformed ex-agitators are currently being processed for deployment to reintegration centres, both within the country and offshore, in the fiscal year 2012.
"The good news is that a greater percentage of the former agitators are now able to adjust to life outside militancy with renewed vigour to eke out meaningful living, even assisting in attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI)."
He said that one of the leaders of the ex-militants, Chief Bibopiri Ajube (aka Shoot at Sight), inaugurated an ultra-modern Vocational Training Institute with hostel facilities capable of accommodating a minimum of 300 trainees at a time.
He recalled that the Federal Government had on June 25, 2009, proclaimed unconditional amnesty for the ex-militants.
Kuku said that the terms of the amnesty included the willingness and readiness of the agitators to surrender their arms on or before Oct. 4, 2009, unconditional renounce of militancy and signing of an undertaking to this effect.
"In return, the government pledged its commitment to institute programmes to assist the disarmament, demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of the former agitators.
"At the expiration of the 60-day grace period on 4 October 2009, a total of 20,192 Niger Delta ex-agitators had surrendered large numbers of arms and ammunition to the Federal Government and accepted the offer of amnesty.
"And Pursuant to the letter and spirit of the Amnesty Proclamation, the Federal Government instituted a Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) package for those who accepted the offer of amnesty on or before the expiration date.
"Another 6,166 were added in November 2010 to constitute a second phase of the programme to bring up the number of persons enlisted in the Presidential Amnesty Programme to 26,358."