The Senate yesterday commenced investigation into the management of N328 billion budgeted for the Federal Government’s Niger Delta Amnesty Programme from 2009 to date.
The Upper Chamber decided to venture into the investigation seven years after the inauguration of the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme.
President Umaru Yar’Adua introduced the programme in 2009, to rehabilitate ex-militants who carried out massive vandalism of oil pipelines and kidnap of expatriates operating in the region to protest what they regarded as neglect of the region by successive governments, despite the economic value of the area to the nation’s overall existence.
The Senate probe was precipitated by agitations in the region over allegations of corruption and mismanagement of resources allocated for the programme by those entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the use of the funds for the development of the people and the area in general.
The Senate, accordingly, mandated its Niger Delta Committee to conduct a public hearing on the man- agement of the funds for the amnesty programme from the beginning of its creation.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who declared the investigative hearing open yesterday, noted that it was exactly six years ago that the programme started, saying that the exercise was well timed.
He insisted that the Senate, through the hearing, must provide answers to certain critical questions on later developments in Niger Delta, which started provoking resurgence of militancy in the oil-rich region, after the amnesty programme had yielded positive results in addressing crisis in the area.
Also, in his address, the committee chairman, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, pointed out that the amnesty programme was designed to better the lots of Niger Delta youths as well as the economic prosperity of Nigeria, saying, “Economic prosperity of the country is partly tied to peace and security of the Niger Delta.”
The guest speaker at the occasion, Chief Jasper Jombo, decried misplacement of priority in the execution of the amnesty programme, saying that the programme ought to consist of various value adding programmes such as agriculture, industrialisation and property development.