Presidential aide claims amnesty has helped economy

The special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta affairs, Kingsley Kuku, has praised the federal government’s amnesty programme for militants in the region, saying this has helped to improve the country’s economy.

Speaking at a forum for stakeholders of the Niger Delta held in Lagos over the weekend, Mr. Kuku disclosed that the amnesty would go down in the history as the “sincerest effort by the federal government of Nigeria to holistically address the Niger Delta question”, as he noted that prior to the proclamation of the official pardon, militancy and general insecurity in the region virtually crippled Nigeria’s economy.

Mr. Kuku said that investment inflow to the upstream subsector of the oil industry had dwindled remarkably, threatening the country’s crude oil reserves.

“Nigeria had targeted 40 billion barrels proven reserve by the end of 2010 but insecurity in Niger Delta led to the exodus of investors from our country to more stable business opportunities in Africa. For example, due to militants’ activities in the Niger Delta, Shell Petroleum Development Company, by early 2009, had declared force majeure on its operations, which caused a drop in its production capacity from one million bpd to about 259,000 bpd.

“Worse still, citing insecurity, union officials all too often called strikes to protest insecure working environment. It got to a point where Nigeria’s export dwindled to as low as 700,000 bpd, compared with a targeted 2.2milion bpd for the first quarter of 2009. In 2008 alone, it was estimated that Nigeria lost over N3trillion as a result of militancy in the Niger Delta,” he said.

The special adviser said that with the proclamation of amnesty for the militants agitators, reasonable disarmament took place and relative peace was restored in the Nigeria Delta, adding that oil companies reopened shut-in wells and under four months, Nigeria’s oil production increased from 700,000 barrels per day to 2.3milion barrels per day.

“With cessation of hostilities, government began giving assurances that Nigeria once again fill its OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) quota and be trusted by major consumer nations to meet its contractual obligations,” he said.

Disappointment from oil companies

Mr. Kuku disclosed that oil companies operating in the Niger Delta have not being helping the region in terms of enhancing the lives of residents of the area, adding that the companies have remained indifferent when it comes to recruiting ex-combatants.

“The oil and gas companies have not done enough and they must do enough because it is a problem they caused this country. They said they are putting together $30m and they can only support te training of 3,000 out of 26,358 ex-combatants. We demanded if they were going to employ them? But they said they cannot guarantee that.

“We reject that completely, because from that point of view, the people they want those to be trained by them to be just artisans, but we are saying that they must train our people in employable fields that some of them can stand the chance of being qualified to be chairman in the SPDC (Shell Petroleum Development Company)one day,” he said.

Sustainable development Dennis Ogwaro, a participant at the forum called for sustainable developments in the Niger Delta, as he explained that this could be achieved by the construction and establishment of institutions and higher education centres in the region.

“With this kind of development, our youth will have their minds taken away from the high demand for money and this will increase the number of increase the number of entrepreneurs in our Niger Delta,” he said

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