The Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Professor Charles Dokubo, has presented amnesty entrepreneur starter packs to 150 trained ex-militant youths in Bayelsa State.
He assured that the amnesty programme will be reviewed to refocus on its mandate and programmes in order to produce the desired results.
The starter pack, made up of power generating sets, deep freezers, plastic tanks, among others, is meant to establish beneficiaries as employers of labour and reduce cases of unemployment in their various areas.
Dokubo, while presenting the starter packs in Olubiri community of the Opokuma Clan in Kolokuma/Opokuma area of Bayelsa, lamented that the initiative had not produced expected results in the past, as many of the over 20,000 ex-militants trained by the amnesty office, since inception eight years ago, still remained unemployed.
While calling for judicious use of the equipment provided by the Federal Government through the amnesty office, he said the gesture was a bold step in the concerted efforts by government to deepen peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta.
He also noted that the presentation of the entrepreneur starter packs is the last phase in the process of amnesty training, stating that "this will show that the Niger Delta people are not lazy, but only need opportunities."
Dokubo, who had earlier paid a courtesy visit to Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd), the Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, at the State Government House, Yenagoa, said the people of the Niger Delta would not have suffer if the scheme had lived up to expectations.
He said his administration studied the failures in implementations of the programme and took a decision to refocus the scheme.
He said: "The amnesty programme has taken a new turn. Amnesty has been here for a very long time, but those of us from this state have not gained it effectively. If we have, most of our people will not be suffering.”
He told the deputy governor that he came to the state to officially launch a new dawn in the implementation of the scheme to enable people benefit from it.
Dokubo said his administration was focusing on the reintegration phase of the programme, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari was interested in the scheme reaching rural communities.
"The people of the Niger Delta, for a long time, have been marginalised, ostracised and oppressed. But now, we have come to a position where we can focus. I believe that this system has changed. The objective of the government clearly states that they want to nurse back communities to health in such a way that they will be part of the bigger picture. Niger Deltans are not lazy. We work hard.
"Anybody who tells you that we are lazy is making a big mistake. How many persons can go into water early in the morning to catch fish? When the Federal Government decided to take this programme about training and reintegration, it was because it was necessary,” he said.
He said the amnesty office would no longer allow beneficiaries of its empowerment programme to resell their starter packs, noting that henceforth, the new thinking is to open workshops in the beneficiaries' areas of trainings and monitor them for four months.
In his remarks, the deputy governor told the youths in the region to prepare for life after amnesty.
"There must be an exit point. It can’t last forever. But there must be programmes to exit. The exit must be painless.” he said.
He said the programme was designed to create opportunities for the Niger Delta people to compete with their peers, noting, however, that there were areas the region needed to be given preferences like the federal character.
He said the government would support the new vision of the amnesty office and urged beneficiaries to take advantage of the opportunity.