Mr Edbor Iyamu is Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Niger Delta. He interfaces with the relevant agencies, Ministry of Niger Delta, Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Niger Delta Development Commission for effective monitoring and implementation of the various development projects and programmes in the region. In this interview with EKELE PETER AGBO, he talks about the ongoing training of 2,500 ex-militants by Concept Amadeus Limited in partnership with the federal government.
What has been this government approach to the Amnesty programme and the insecurity in the Niger Delta generally?
I would like to do a bit of background information. You recall that in 2016 during the heatt of the pipeline vandalisation, the office of the Vice President embarked on a tour in the region and met with all the relevant stakeholders, the youth groups, elders and other different groups. During that engagement, we received a number of submissions and these submissions were taken on board; which, of course, led to the 16-point agenda and of course, the federal government response which was the 20-point agenda and that came about what is known as the new vision for the Niger Delta.
The new vision has change the previous narrative of under development or failed projects and so on and indeed, it is designed to bring development and is a fortnight partnership between the federal government, state government, private sector and the local communities. Now, the Amnesty programme as you know is a programme designed to address issues of militancy and all that in the Niger delta region and one of the ways this government has ensured that those involved receive their regular stipends so you have a situation where the federal government ensure that those regular stipends get to the beneficiaries.
I say it all the time that one of the ways we can change the narrative in the Niger Delta and bring about peace is when there is development, where people can point projects and things that show the region is experiencing development. A situation where there are number of jobs and increase economic activities and that is why this project we have today with Concept Amadeus is consistently a new vision. As I said earlier, we have situation where today we have a public-private partnership between an agency in government, the Amnesty Office on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria is partnering with the private sector in this case, Concept Amadeus.
What are you going to be doing differently because overtime we have had cases where these ex-militants have been trained and are jobless?
That is why I said we are doing things differently. That is the new vision and we are going to get to that. In this project that we have today, the partnership is different from what obtained in the past whereby beneficiaries are just trained and nothing happens there after. With the concept we have today, it involve one training and engagement so all these beneficiaries that are going to be trained are going to be engaged and not only are they going to be engaged but are also going to be given national certificates that they can use anywhere in the world so they don’t have to work in Nigeria only, with the quality of training they can go to anywhere in the world and get employed which in my view is a very good thing. So they are getting the kind of certificate that have an international standard so we have a situation where people, having been trained will be engaged and up it to go anywhere in the world if they like and be engaged. So that is the difference we see today.
You brought in the private sector and then both locally and internationally and you are also talking about people that were once armed. Now what risk is there for these companies that are involved in engaging them?
What has happened is that when a lot of them were engaged they went through a process whereby if you like you could said they were subjected to some kind of training to change their perception and the way and manner in which they do things. They went through that process and it was an initial stage that they all had to go through and just as you counted out, you are getting in people who are used to carrying arms and all that and you are trying to move them over to environment so it is important that you train them and change their mindset and that is indeed, what we carried out at the initial stages. So we have people today we could almost describe as reformed, people who have gone through a process of reformation taking away a lot of their aggressive tendencies. So to answer your question, they were exposed to any kind of risk, as I speak to you I don’t know if we have recorded even a single case of that kind of thing happening. You find that even those people who have been involved in carrying arms and all that you could tell that they had a reason for doing it. They felt that their assets were being taken away and they had to stand up and fight for their rights.
What real benefit will fishing bring to the region and more than anything else, is it still viable in the Niger Delta considering the pollution, insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea and the illegal fishing?
If you have been to Niger Delta you will agree with me that it is not every part of the region that has been polluted. There are still areas where fishing activities are presently going on. So this is a natural vocation for then, the average people that comes there involves in fishing so what this whole concept is putting together is doing the same thing that you could say they have been born to do but in a more efficient way. So we are bringing fishing techniques that are more modern instead of old and archaic way of doing these things that bring very little output. So what is being brought to the table is a modern way of doing these things that will increase the level of productivity so you are going to find a situation where there is going to be more jobs, it is going to stimulate the economic activities in the region because there will be a lot of trading as people will be buying fish and all of that. I understand that they are going to have even dispatch riders so that you can press your order for fish just like you have it in modern cities whereby even on a motorcycle bike you have a carrier and people are delivering fish base on request. So it is going to change the narrative and the environment and we are also excited looking forward to it.
From the government perspective, do you have any projection on how much money you can make from taxes if you can grow the fishing industry in the region?
There is no question about that. Certainly, the government is going to benefit by way of tax revenue when more companies are set up and you know they do business and at the end of it they get profit and the government is going to get tax revenues from it but more importantly in my view is the government is particularly about ensuring that there is peace in the Niger Delta and whatever the government can do or support to ensure that peace is sustain this administration is forwarding and one of the ways we know that people can begin to think of negative activities is when they are idle so the fact that these programmes provides a lot of jobs and training for people and I understand that this is the first phase and it is going to continue, more people are going to engage and so on and so forth. So as I said, it is something that really we are looking forward to and I know that definitely, it is going to address a lot of government concerns in the areas of security, job opportunities and others.
What is the timeline of the programme and what have you done so far and where are you getting the funding from?
Well, as we speak today I am don’t know whether you are aware but about two weeks ago we had a formal flag-off on May 24 which attracted all the relevant stakeholders and I represented the Vice president at the formal launch and the Hon Minister of Niger Delta represented President. So we are at a point where a lot has been going on but we have gotten to that point now where it is about to kick off but before now a lot of ground has been going on.
How many jobs do you intend to create from this programme in the long run?
For starters, we are starting with 2, 500 beneficiaries. In my view that is not a negligible number considering the impact they will make on the Niger Delta region at the end of their training. We are hoping that overtime the number should be scaled up. And the government is excited about this. Again, you must know that Amnesty Programme is not supposed to be a permanent thing; it is an exit path that has been designed in reintegrating ex-militants into the society. And we will get to that point where the government can breathe that sigh of relief and wind down the programme.