Former freedom fighters have threatened resumption of hostilities in the Niger Delta within seven days if the Federal Government fails to pay the consultant handling their reintegration programme. The ex-militants, who staged a peaceful protest in front of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) office yesterday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, also insisted that government must offset their four-month allowance to avert the looming crisis.
The demonstrators included those undergoing an intensive electric power transformer repair and maintenance under the amnesty programme at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Spokesperson of the ex-militants, Biira Barida, told reporters that the programme – which is in three phases namely disarmament, rehabilitation and reintegration – was envisioned to bring lasting peace to the oil-rich region and take the aggrieved youths out of the creeks for a meaningful life. Barida regretted that the reintegration phase, which serves as an opportunity for the beneficiaries to be empowered with skills, was currently being “undermined because of lack of funding by the amnesty office.”
His words: “As we speak, we are in the middle of the last phase which is the reintegration that we resumed on July 3,2019 only to be asked to go home on October 31,2019 due to lack of funding and/or refusal to pay contractual obligations to the contractor/consultant of electric power transformer repair and maintenance.He observed that it was “most disappointing that in a country that power distribution remains a major challenge and there are limited number of skilled and semi-skilled manpower in this technical area, training aimed at producing needed manpower was being treated with levity.”
Barida noted that remarkably, under the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, a $307.5 million worth transformer factory, the first in the country’s history, had been initiated in conjunction with a Chinese bank to plough $261.4 million for equipment purchase, while the Federal Government would provide the balance as counterpart funding.
According to him, 60 Nigerian engineers are in China undergoing training in transformer manufacturing.“In the same vein, the vision of those engaged in this transformer repair and maintenance training is to locally manufacture transformers in order to save our country the millions of dollars on training abroad or foreign technical support (expatriates). We are all Nigerians and are not unaware of the challenges experienced in the power sector.”
He said the ex-militants, as it stands, were at crossroads, since they had not been equipped with skills that could empower them to contribute meaningfully to the development of the country. The spokesperson lamented that having gone through first two stages of the amnesty programme, it was shocking that they were unable to conclude the final phase for no fault of theirs.