There have been several criticisms against the amnesty programme especially by ex- militants who may not have made the list. The approval of N63.281 billion by the National Assembly for inclusion of victims of oil pollution and training of 3,642 ex-militants granted amnesty did not stop the grumblings in the Niger Delta region. On this premise, Programme Officer for Partners for Peace, P4P, a group building peace in the Niger Delta, Dr. Robinson Ariyo spoke on issues surrounding the programme. He maintains the programme has not addressed the root cause of the conflicts in the Niger Delta, rather, has only created opportunity for more oil to flow. Excerpts:
IS the amnesty programme addressing problems in the Niger Delta?
It depends on what objective you think the amnesty programme was set to achieve. If you say the amnesty programme was set to achieve temporary peace so that the oil companies can drill, I will say 100 per cent yes. But if you say the amnesty programme was set to address the issues of agitation, I will say complete no.
Right now, we have much more problems with the effect of the amnesty than we have had with the agitation itself because several people are sufferings. From the perspective of government, if you are to look at the indicator, more oil is flowing, yes; you will say the amnesty has achieved its aim. But the truth is that in addressing the root causes, the answer is no. There is no long term plan for instance.
What happens to those who have been trained? For waht purpose was the exercise?
Most of them now constitute a nuisance. The amnesty programme has not addressed the issues it ought to address. So there is no smooth conclusion because there is no game plan. You just train 21,000 ex-militants. Apart from that, the process of selection of those who participate has some loop holes.
As it is typical in our country, when such opportunities come, people consider it as national cake, even substantial proportion of those who have participated or participating are not ex militants. Some slots were sold out. So to reach out to the core amnesty people in a manner that is intended by such a programme would entail being transparent, being truthful to ourselves and being accountable to the process.
What should have been the ideal thing?
There are two ways to doing things - either by information or by ignorance. If government has not sat down to really understand what is happening, and then government will look like the blind trying to climb a hill. The problem is that most of the time government sits down in the office and discusses what is good for the people down stairs and fashions it and brings it downstairs.
Government may be well intentioned but it takes more than intention to achieve an end. You need to have knowledge and this knowledge can only come from study and research and discussion with the people. There is a disconnect between government and the people. Government is throwing a lot of money on a lot of things, but those things are not working.
Not until we sit down and decide and say, I really want to know what this problem is and I want to discuss with these people. Government presently is like a doctor trying to treat a patient without talking to the patient. A doctor has to listen to the patient. That is the role of the government and the people.
Factors fuelling violence conflict is essentially a situation where people are trying to jostle for certain things that they value. And they are not doing it in such a creative and organised way. There are multiplicities of factors based on the studies we have done so far.