This Day (Lagos)

5 December 2012

Nigeria: Ex-Militants Employed As Pilots, Instructors in South Africa

Some ex-militants from the Niger Delta region who were taken to South Africa to train as pilots under the Federal Government's Amnesty programme performed so well that some of them were employed and are operating as commercial pilots in that country while others became instructors in the training institute where they graduated.

This was in addition to the 170 youths from the region who were earlier employed in different countries where they underwent their skill acquisition training and higher education.

This was disclosed on Monday night, by Reuben Wilson, who led a team of former agitators back to Nigeria after they had received leadership training in South Africa on non-violent and business development.

He said 21 of the 33 leaders in the first batch of the training arrived aboard South Africa Airways alongside the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chairman, Presidential Amnesty programme, Hon. Kingsley Kuku.

Wilson, who hails from Bayelsa State, told journalists that the training expanded the horizon of the participants and afforded them a first-hand opportunity to see other Niger Delta youths excelling as pilots and instructors at the African Union Aviation Academy in Mafikeng.

"We, the leaders, are very happy with the Federal Government and Kuku for fulfilling another promise made to us when we accepted amnesty in 2009. We have now learnt how to resolve conflicts using non-violent principles and that is what we are going to be practising. We have given our commitment to the government to maintain peace in the Niger Delta and we are not going back on it.

"Thirty three of us from the nine states in the Niger Delta travelled to South Africa for this training and I'm happy to report that everything went well. We are now back home as ambassadors of peace. What they taught us in South Africa is what we will take to our respective states," he said.

The team leader listed the benefits of the programme to include the opportunity for Niger Delta youths to become commercial airline pilots.

"Some of our brothers, including my younger brother, are now commercial plane pilots and instructors. We never thought this could happen," he said.

Head of Media and Communications in the Presidential Amnesty Office, Mr Daniel Alabrah, also told airport correspondents that the Kingian non-violence training was yet another opportunity to reinforce the message of non-violence as one of the solutions to the Niger Delta agitation for development.

He disclosed that the leaders were awarded certificates by the Emory University in the United States of America after they were personally trained by renowned American civil rights activist, ordained minister and compatriot of the late Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Bernard LaFayette.

Alabrah said the training was facilitated by the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN), adding that the amnesty programme continues to improve on its success story.

"When the amnesty programme started, a lot of people did not believe it would get this far. Today, our youths are being trained as commercial pilots and instructors in the aviation industry. Others are getting internationally certified skills in various vocational fields apart from those that are in formal educational institutions in Nigeria and about 20 countries in the world," he added.

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