Niger Delta amnesty programme – The Senate on Thursday began investigations into the books of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, while declaring a public hearing on the amnesty programme open on Thursday, said the legislature recognised the importance of the programme to the sustenance of peace and security in the Niger Delta region.
Saraki recalled that the programme was envisaged to last for three years and thereafter be mainstreamed into the broader development framework of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission; but observed that six years after, the programme still constituted a huge budgetary cost to the Federal Government.
He said, “The current incidence of pipeline vandalism and destruction of oil facilities by the Niger Delta militants have resulted in no small measure in causing the current economic recession that has presently gripped the country. It has reduced the quantity of crude produced daily from two to one million barrels per day, thereby reducing dollar inflow to the national treasury.
“Seven years down the line since the conceptualisation of the amnesty programme, can we truly say that the primary reason for that decision has been achieved? Has the restiveness and the frayed nerves reduced? Has the vandalism of oil facilities in the region stopped? What impact has the payment of monthly stipends made to the youths of the region? How sustainable is the amnesty programme to the Federal Government of Nigeria? Some of these questions will form the crux of the deliberation in this public hearing.”
A former Special Adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, had said the Federal Government had spent N243bn on the programme as of 2014.
The government also budgeted N65bn and N20bn for the programme in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North), stated that the probe panel derived its mandate for the assignment from an order of the Senate, which empowered it to carry out a holistic forensic audit and investigation of the activities of the programme from 2009 when it was set up to date.
He said the committee’s task was “to do a proper check of the events of that time or simply to balance the books.”