Federal Government to spend 88 BILLION NAIRA on ex-militants in 2013!

Good times for ex-militants in 2013 as the Federal Government plans to spend over N88 billion on the Amnesty Programme, N16 billion more than what it is spending this year.

By the time this year ends, the Federal Government is expected to have spent about N72billion on its Amnesty Programme for repentant Niger Delta militants. This is more than what it spends to deliver basic education to children.

Next year, it plans to spend more on the programme, largely because of a third phase, just approved by President Goodluck Jonathan. Over N88 billion will be sunk into the programme next year. Of this, 30,000 ex-militants will take home N23.6 billion as stipends. Another N35.4 billion will go into the re-integration of transformed ex-warlords. N3.699 is earmarked for what is described as ‘presidential amnesty programme’.

Three years ago, attacks ranging from theft to bombings to kidnappings pummeled oil production to as low as 500,000 barrels on some days. So, the government began spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to maintain an uneasy calm in the oil-rich delta. Production is now back up to 2.6 million barrels daily of low-sulfur crude.

Another move government adopted to ‘buy’ peace in the region was to get the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to begin paying ex-militant leaders such as Mujahhid Dokubo-Asari to protect oil pipelines. Dokubo-Asari gets $9 million a year to pay his 4,000 former foot soldiers to protect the pipelines they once attacked.

Gen. Ebikabowei “Boyloaf” Victor Ben and Gen. Ateke Tom get $3.8 million a year apiece to have their men guard pipelines. Government “Tompolo” Ekpmupolo maintains a $22.9 million-a-year contract to do the same.

But, oil theft appears to be on the rise again. Shell estimates that more than 150,000 barrels of oil are stolen daily.

Last month, President Goodluck Jonathan approved a third phase for the Amnesty Programme, a development which analysts say mean the country may commit millions of dollars to the programme next year.

The Special Adviser to the President on Research and Documentation, Oronto Douglas, believes there is no better option than continuing to ‘buy’ peace. He said: “If it’s too huge, what are the alternatives?”

Through the programme, 26, 358 former Niger Delta militants have been trained in various vocational courses both at home and abroad.

The Jonathan administration claims that the amnesty proclamation is the sincerest , boldest and most profound effort by any government of Nigeria since 1960 to address the agitation for fairness, equity and development in the oil- rich Niger Delta. The successful management of the post-amnesty programme, said government, has ensured the return of peace, safety, security and sustainable development to the region.

But some analysts have disagreed with the government’s position. To them, the programme is selective and not in the interest of the majority of the people of the Niger Delta. They claim that the programme is only benefiting a few people. They believe part of the money could have been used in setting up industries to create jobs for the unemployed youths in the region and Nigeria at large.