Oil exploration firms operating in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region have been called upon to demonstrate sincerity in dealing with environmental issues arising from their activities in the area.
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel made the call in Uyo while addressing stakeholders of the Niger Delta at a one day meeting to seek solutions to the problem of militancy in the region.
The governor, who was represented by the Chairman of Akwa Ibom State Council of Chiefs,His Royal Majesty Owong Effiong Achanga, frowned at the attitude of oil exploration firms to the plight of their host communities who bear the brunt of environmental and health hazards resulting from exploration activities in the area.
He further called on companies and the federal government to show more commitment to addressing environmental concerns in the region.
Other speakers also expressed the need for regular dialogue to examine the problem and seek a permanent solution to militancy in the Niger Delta.They also identified the absence of basic infrastructure as one of the major causes the problem in the region.
The Head of EU delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS Ambassador, Michele Arrion, warned against depending on military approach as the only solution to the problem.
Mr Tony Uranta, representing the Amnesty Office, assured of the federal government’s commitment to finding a permanent solution to the issues in the Niger Delta.
The meeting was attended by stakeholders from states of the Niger Delta region, the traditional institution, civil society groups and the diplomatic community.
Some ex militants in Rivers State have protested against what they call undue exclusion from the Federal Government’s Amnesty Programme and Army assault on their members during the last verification exercise in the state.
The protest came after the renewed efforts by the Special Adviser to the President on Amnesty Programme, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (Rtd), kick started the verification exercise to aid transparency and documentation for payment of stipends.
A source at the Amnesty Office in Abuja told Channels Television that only the President of Nigeria has the power to grant amnesty to any agitator.
The Head of Media to the Amnesty Office, Owei Lakemfa, said in a telephone conversation with Channels Television that “the Amnesty Office is not aware of any alleged manhandling of ex agitators during the verification exercise that took place in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State.
” It is only the President (Muhammadu Buhari) who has powers to grant amnesty. The programme has been working based on a data base.
“Anyone that has further complains should channel their query to the office.”
There is however, a need for these concerns to be looked into to by the authorities to forestall any possible breakdown of law and order in the region.
The Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Office has dismissed claims by some Student of the programme in South Africa that they are being owed arrears of allowances.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday, the Coordinator of the programme, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (Rtd), said such claims were not true, as the students had been paid up to the month of August.
Students under the programme at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth in South Africa took their protest to the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria to demand the payment of their outstanding allowances.
Brigadier General Boroh stressed that the amnesty office had since processed the papers for payment for the months of September and October, which would hopefully come through in a few weeks.
He also indicated that he had given a directive for the accommodation allowances of the Students to be processed for payment to cover the remaining months of 2015.
The Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme explained that some recent fiscal policies of the government required that proper verification should be done before funds requested by such offices would be released by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He, however, reaffirmed the readiness of the Amnesty Office to ensure consistency in the payment of all allowances that delegates under the programme were entitled to.
He also assured the students that the Amnesty office would look into all issues regarding their stay in South Africa and the issue of expired visas and frozen accounts.
A faction of former Niger Delta militant group on Tuesday issued a one month ultimatum to the presidency to release unpaid allowances to them or risk another bout of crisis in the region.
Addressing the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, leaders of the ex-militants in Ughelli demanded that funds be released to members of the various camps, who are yet to recieve payment.
The group said the leader’s entrepreneurship training is yet to be implemented and that some members were sent for training, by the amnesty office, without duly notifying the leaders of the camps.
Two of the group’s leaders, Owonama Edward and Charles Akatakpo while speaking with journalists in the state, disclosed that they observed irregularities in the payment procedure as some members had not been paid.
“We have been experiencing a situation where some of the boys will receive their salaries in a particular month and have their names omitted the next month. We are insisting that the pending allowances should be paid,” they said.
They stressed that all the leaders should be carried along in all plans and procedures, adding that, “we the leaders are being treated like nuisance by the amnesty office; why? They should work towards the implementation of the leaders’ entrepreneurship training.”
The presidency had in January stated that the amnesty programme granted to ex-militants will not continue despite the agitation by several groups springing up in the region demanding to be accommodated in the programme.
The Third Phase of the Amnesty Programme will be involving an additional 3,642 ex-militants who are included in the programme following widespread agitations among the youths of the Niger Delta for inclusion in the programme.
Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, made this known as he confirmed that the Amnesty Office would ensure effective funding of the disarmament process of the ex-militants of the third phase for 31 days.
Mr. Kuku made this comment during the visit of the Chairman of the Inter Agency Task Force, Air Vice Marshal James Gbum, stating that the federal government has commenced the effective implementation of the third phase of the Amnesty to ex-agitators of the Niger Delta.
According to Mr Kuku, it was the responsibility of the task force to ensure the reconciliation of arms and ammunition recovered from the militants in various security formations.
He also urged the members of the task force to ensure that they carry out their mandate in accordance with expectations.
He warned that the Amnesty Office would impose sanctions against anybody found to be involved in acts that could derail the programme.