24 January 2019

Nigeria: Presidential Amnesty Office Shuts Down Ex-Militants' Training Centre One Month After Opening

The Presidential Amnesty Office has shut down a vocational training centre in Lagos barely one month after it was officially opened for the training of some ex-militants from the Niger-Delta.

The Fouzz Fashion Institute in Igando, Lagos, was officially opened on December 13, 2018, to train some 72 delegates in such skills as tailoring, leatherworks, ICT, and bag-making.

But following a series of complaints from the intended beneficiaries over poor living conditions, the training was suspended until further notice, one of the ex-militants told PREMIUM TIMES.

"It was closed down pending when they will get a good training centre or upgrade the one they have," Confidence Oyile, one of the beneficiaries, said.

A spokesperson for the programme, however, insisted that the centre was not closed down due to poor facilities.

"Some of those people you see there had undergone training before, unknown to this present administration," Murphy Ganagana, head of media at the Amnesty Office, told PREMIUM TIMES.

"So when they now moved them there, they were now demanding that rather than expend the money on their training, the consultant should just give them the money let them just go. Which is not done, that is criminal."

'Ill-equipped training centre; poor living conditions'

During a recent visit to the Fouzz Training Institute situated in Igando, a Lagos suburb, some of the delegates - as the ex-militants are referred - complained about the lack of equipment for their training.

Murphy Bobra, a delegate, said it had been difficult to learn due to non-provision of the required tools.

"We don't have machines, just ordinary hand; and they gave us carbon paper," said Mr Bobra, 39, from Bayelsa State, who arrived in December to acquire a skill in leatherworks.

Inside the training facility, dozens of young men and women sat in the various wood-partitioned classes and listened attentively to their instructors.

At the ICT class, some members of staff were seen mounting computer desktops on tables.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the computers arrived on January 16 this year.

While the delegates said they were not satisfied with their learning conditions, their main headache begins at the end of the day when they return to their hostels - three two-storey buildings located a few hundred kilometres away from the training centre.

The accommodation is a sharp contrast to that of previous ex-militants who, when they were brought to Lagos for skills acquisition training, were lodged in hotels in the Lekki area.

"Our accommodation is not conducive for our living. If you come to our hostel, it looks like Kirikiri prison yard, no good water," said Confidence Oyile, 30, from Rivers State, who spoke on behalf of more than a dozen delegates.

In one of the buildings visited by PREMIUM TIMES, it was observed that electricity supply to the flats had been permanently disconnected and the only source of power is a 7.6KVA generator.

The ex-militants say the hostels where they are accommodated are unfit for human dwelling.

"We have six hours of electricity every night," said Mr Bobra.

"There is no light during the day because the buildings have been disconnected. Most times we contribute money to buy fuel for the generator. We also contribute money to renew our GoTV subscription when it expires. They should take us to a better place."

Mr Oyile said the cohabitation with the female trainees breeds sexual immorality in the building, especially at night.

"If you come here at night, they act blue film everywhere, the staircase, backyard, everywhere."

He also complained about the overcrowding in the apartments where, according to him, almost ten people are made to stay in a three-bedroom flat.

James Tamunogiye, who arrived two weeks ago from Rivers State, said the hostels are unfit for human dwelling.

"It's not a place I can stay, mosquitoes, heat, the place is dirty," said Mr Tamunogiye, 33.

"Even the people around pity us because it's not a place where human beings stay."

'Breach of security'

A few minutes after a PREMIUM TIMES reporter left the Fouzz Training Institute, armed police officers arrived at the facility and whisked away the trainees who had invited the media to Igando police station.

Mr Oyile said they were released after a few hours when they insisted they would not sign any undertaking to be of good behaviour.

The next day, armed soldiers were brought to take them to the Amnesty Office in Abuja where they were later told that the programme would no longer continue.

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the Amnesty Information Centre on a number listed on their website, an official said the training facility in Lagos was closed to enable them conduct an investigation.

"We received a lot of complaints from the delegates themselves, they were complaining that their accommodation was very bad and that the living condition was very bad," said the official who declined to be named.

"The office is trying to work on it."

But Mr Ganagana said the centre was not closed but that the delegates were dispersed to avert any breach of security.

"You cannot do more than one training, it was those ones that had done training before, that were illegally smuggled into the training, that were inciting others.

"So it was at that point that they needed to shut down the place. Those boys that fomented that trouble will exit the place because what they did is criminal."

Mr Oyile admitted that some of them had participated in the amnesty programme in the past but that they did not finish their training.

"We had undergone some training but it was not completed based on Kingsley Kuku made away with the money, that was why they had to recall us again," he said.

"He made away with the money when Jonathan lost the election."

Mr Kuku was the coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme during the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan.

A kitchen in the hostel where the ex-militants are kept.

He fled the country shortly after the 2015 general elections following allegations of corruption against him.

Mr Oyile denied the claim that they were demanding that the money for the training be given to them, adding that they seized the bus belonging to the training centre coordinator to make her listen to their complaints

"We seized the bus so that we can dialogue on the way forward," he said.

"How can I be a computer student and I don't have system, no hand-out, I don't have anything at all you said I should come and learn computer? Is that how to learn computer? What we are demanding is adequate training facility and good environment. Finish."

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