Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to jettison the plan to end the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP).
Mr Diri insisted that PAP is yet to achieve its mandate, saying the disarmament phase of the scheme has not been fully realised as arms and ammunition are still in the wrong hands in the Niger Delta.
“It will be wrong for anybody at this point to bring the amnesty programme to a close. That will amount to being insensitive to what is going on in the region,” Mr Diri said.
The governor, who spoke when he received the interim administrator, PAP, retired Maj.-Gen. Barry Ndiomu, on Friday in Government House, Yenagoa, warned that any attempt to shut down the programme would plunge the region into another round of unrest.
“The amnesty programme has three legs. The first is disarmament, a process said to be completed; then the demobilisation leg and finally, the reintegration leg.
On the issue of disarmament, can we completely convince ourselves that we have been able to disarm the Niger Delta of armaments in our region completely?
“So while we are in the final stage of reintegration, you and I know that within our Niger Delta, we still have very many arms, non-state actors are in possession of arms, well that has been said to be completed, but I like to state clearly here that the process is not 100 per cent completed,” he said.
While acknowledging that the federal government has soft-pedalled in its decision to shut down the programme, Mr Diri said the best gift the government could give to the Niger Delta people is to allow the continuity of PAP.
The governor urged Mr Ndiomu to deal with the challenges in the programme and write his name in gold, insisting that the problems are huge enough to contemplate closing the scheme.
“Let me use this opportunity of your courtesy call to call on the FG that the best thing and the best gift to the Niger Delta is to continue to support and keep the Presidential Amnesty Programme going.
“As you have rightly stated, yes, there are challenges, but then the amnesty programme has also recorded some degree of success. Those challenges are the reasons our people keep coming and going. So, for me, at every given opportunity, it is a time to write your name in gold and, indeed, writing the name of your state, Bayelsa, in gold,” Mr Diri said.
The governor called on Mr Ndiomu to avoid the temptation of politicising the amnesty office, saying that before the birth of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the people were the same.
Mr Diri frowned at the domicile of the amnesty programme in Abuja. He said his administration had donated a parcel of land to erect a befitting office for the scheme and bring it home.
“The amnesty programme as it operates today is more of Abuja. It’s almost an alien programme to our people, except for people who will visit your offices in Abuja, and I’ll like to call on you to ensure that the headquarters of the amnesty programme is sited in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state. To this end, the state government has already donated a parcel of land for that purpose,” he said.
Mr Diri called for collaboration among the state government, the amnesty programme and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to avoid duplication of projects and programmes.
On the ongoing clean-up of Ogoni, the governor noticed the snail-paced movement of the programme and reminded the federal government that many areas of the Niger Delta needed remediation.
On his part, Mr Ndiomu solicited the support of the Bayelsa government for his administration.
He said he was poised to reform the amnesty programme to make it more impactful and results-oriented to the beneficiaries.