By Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
*Funds released for ex-militants’ rehabilitation & reintegration
*Rise in budgetary allocation fallout of recent presidential level visits to oil producing communities
In sustenance of the new understanding between the Federal Government and the oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has released additional N35B to step-up the Amnesty Programme in the region.
Although the FG had approved a N20B allocation for the Amnesty Programme in the 2016 budget, President Buhari has now raised the funds, and as appropriated, to N55B with a recent release of additional N30B. There is also a planned release of another N5B later.
Currently the Amnesty Office has now paid up all ex-militants backlog of their stipends up to the end of 2016.
The release of the additional funds is coming after presidential level interactive engagements in the Niger Delta, where the Buhari administration has enunciated a New Vision for the oil-producing areas based on the presentation made by the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, to the President when he received leaders and stakeholders from the region last November.
Subsequently, the President asked his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, to embark on a tour of the region that saw him visiting several oil-producing States in the country.
Besides the monthly payment of about N65, 000 to N66,000 to the ex-militants, the funds would also go to the provision of reintegration activities under the Amnesty Programme including payment of tuition fees for beneficiaries from Niger Delta who are in post-secondary institutions at home and abroad, payment of in-training & hazard allowances and vocational training costs.
There are also empowerment schemes and self-help, self-employment support funds, including provision of needed equipments by the Amnesty Office. Equally, the funds would also support the training of pilots, aviation engineers, technicians, and motor vehicles mechanics from the oil-producing communities.
The Buhari administration reassures the Niger Delta communities of its unalloyed commitment to a faithful implementation of its promises made during the FG interactive engagement visits by the Vice President to different oil-producing communities
Other promises made during the visits are currently at different stages of effective implementation, including the effective opening of the Maritime University, integration of illegal refiners under the concept of new Modular Refineries, resumption of all abandoned construction projects in the region, the Ogoni Clean-up, and several others.
For instance the Maritime University is now on course to be opened before the end of the year as the presidency has already set the process in motion as announced yesterday. Other announcements are to follow as each of the commitments of the FG to the Niger Delta oil-producing communities reach advanced and implementation stages.
Already there is an inter-ministerial group consisting of all relevant ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs of the FG, with the involvement of relevant State governments led by the Vice President that meets regularly to drive the different initiatives and ensure effective and ongoing implementation.