‘N20 billion budget, indication amnesty programme winding down’

AmnestyPipeline explosions blamed on politicians’work
THE Federal Government may have begun a gradual winding down of the Amnesty Programme despite providing for it in the 2016 budget.
The Guardian reliably gathered yesterday that the Federal Government earmarked N20 billion for the Presidential Amnesty Office in the 2016 budget, an amount a source close to the Amnesty Office told The Guardian was small for the operations of the programme, and may therefore, be an indication from the Presidency that the Office should be preparing for a wind down.
”But there is no official position instructing the Amnesty Office to wind down yet. Only the President can decide that, and he is yet to do that”, the source said.
He explained that the budget for the Amnesty Programme has been on the decrease in the past few years from when it used to be more than N70 billion, to about N50 billion in 2015, and now N20 billion for 2016.
The amnesty programme began operation in 2010 on a five years execution period.
It would be recalled that at his inauguration on May 29, 2015 , President Muhammadu Buhari had said that the Amnesty Programme would be wound down by December 2015, but that his administration would make issues of the Niger Delta a priority.
As the December deadline approached however, different groups started voicing opposition to scrapping it, pointing out the dire consequences of ending such a programme that has brought peace to the Niger Delta region for five years.
Perhaps considering the number of trainees still on the programme and the 13,000 persons who are yet to be enlisted for training, the Federal Government, it is reliably gathered, budgeted N20 billion for the Programme in 2016.
But this amount is said to be grossly inadequate considering the number of persons whose tuition fees have to be paid, and those who still have to be enlisted for training.
Wondering what could have been the reason for the recent pipeline bombings in the region when the government has not wound down the amnesty programme, the source told The Guardian, that politicians are likely to be responsible.
“This issue does not concern militant agitators, these are criminals. Politicians are battling for the soul of Bayelsa state.
They belong to opposing political parties. See the violence that greeted the gubernatorial election. It’s not possible for an ex-militant to bomb the pipeline in his own village and destroy the livelihood of his own people. Since the court is looking for him, if there is anybody that will hide him, it should be his own people. So what will he be doing destroying their livelihood”, he argued.
He also drew attention to the possibility that some former contractors who have not had pipeline maintenance jobs in the last five years of peace may be responsible for sponsoring criminal vandalism of pipelines at such a time when it can not be easily traced to them.
“Some contractors who had no repair jobs to do in the last five years may have sponsored the vandalism so that the government will contract them to do the repairs. It is better for the government to sack all former contractors and get new ones”, he said.
When contacted on the issues, Head of Media and Communication at the Presidential Amnesty Office, Owei Lakemfa told The Guardian that the Amnesty Office does not know those responsible for the vandalism.

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