A Niger Delta activist and spokesperson for the Ijaw Republican Assembly, Ms. Annkio Briggs, has faulted the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to discontinue the ongoing Niger Delta Amnesty Programme.
The amnesty programme was instituted by the administration of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua to tackle the growing militancy in the region, including destruction of oil pipelines, illegal bunkering, kidnapping and illegal refining of crude oil.
But in his inaugural speech last Friday, President Buhari pointed out that the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta would end in December, 2015.
He added, “But the government intends to invest heavily in the projects, and programmes currently in place. I call on the leadership and people in these areas to cooperate with the state and federal governments in the rehabilitation programmes, which will be streamlined and made more effective.
“As ever, I am ready to listen to grievances of my fellow Nigerians. I extend my hand of fellowship to them so that we can bring peace and build prosperity for our people”.
In reaction to the inaugural speech, Ms. Briggs expressed disappointment, saying though as president, Mr. Buhari did not need anyone’s permission to what he thought was best for the Niger Delta region, it did not make such a decision justifiable.
Briggs, who spoke with The PUNCH, stressed that “I always say we should not forget the reason why we have the amnesty programme today in Nigeria. People should not forget that the programme is not to address the issue of the Niger Delta. It was set up to address the reaction to what is wrong with the Niger Delta, which was agitation.
“The major beneficiary of amnesty is the Federal Government of Nigeria because the acceptance of amnesty increased the output of fuel (oil). Secondly, the amnesty programme is meant to cover about 30,000 people.
“I would think that any incoming government would want to find out if the amnesty ends with the number of people that we are supposed to be catering for and address whatever issues that would arise from that investigation to find out what is on the ground for the programme”.