The Niger Delta Frontier Movement (NDFM) has urged the federal government led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to select a new Chairman for the Presidential Amnesty Programme and a Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs from a different ethnic group. The NDFM emphasized the importance of inclusiveness and fostering a sense of belonging among all ethnic nationalities in the region, highlighting that the Programme should not be limited to one tribe.
During a well-attended meeting of key stakeholders from the region, led by Goodluck Opia, the group appealed to the President, stressing that such a decision would eliminate the perceived entitlement to the program by a single tribe. Specifically, Opia recommended the appointment of a Special Adviser from the Urhobo ethnic group, citing their status as the largest homogeneous entity in the region and deserving of representation in this era of Renewed Hope to initiate a new chapter in the history of the programme.
Opia acknowledged that previous governments had maintained a biased approach to appointments in this office, emphasizing that the region belongs to everyone and should not favor any particular tribe. He further emphasized that no records worldwide indicate that any tribe possesses more oil and gas resources than Urhoboland in the region.
The Movement also highlighted the peace and tranquility demonstrated by the Urhobo nation, stating that among the ethnic groups in the region, none has exhibited greater commitment to peace and national cohesion. They emphasized that the Urhobo people of Delta State are known for their peaceful nature and amicable relationships, both prior to and following the resurgence of insurgency in the Delta region.
Opia called upon the National Security Adviser to the President, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and the Secretary to the Federal Government, George Akume, who oversee the appointment process, to avoid favoritism in the next appointment to the Presidential Amnesty Programme. He urged them to depart from past practices of recommending individuals without proper diligence and for personal gain, in order to mark a significant change.
He said, “The programme needs somebody with indepth knowledge of the region, particularly the regional politics to man the office.”
“Right from the beginning of the Programme,” the group noted, “The FG has deliberately ignored and denied other ethnic nations the right to manage the affairs of the office saying retired military officers most of whom were appointed in the past don’t even know the beneficiaries of the programme let alone be in touch with the realities on the ground and this he said has hampered the would-have-been success of the intervention agency.”
“Appointments of the Amnesty boss in the past,” Opia stated, “negates the spirit and soul of the founding fathers of the programme,” maintaining, “At inception, the office was led by non retired military personnel, who laid a good foundation for the development and growth of the programme but subsequent appointments ran in contrary to the good of the programme”
“In the region there are Ndokwa, Calabar, Akwa Ibom, Itsekiri and other nationalities, who have not been considered fit and proper for appointment into the office but deliberately, the government has sustained lop-sidedness in its choice of persons appointed to the office as he called on the President to look elsewhere this time around.
“The programme,” the Movement stated, “Was intended to intervene in the development and growth of the people and the region but regretted that the issues that necessitated the establishment of the agency are still very much present in the region and that the only way to achieve result is for the government to look elsewhere by appointing an ex-militant leader from other tribes especially from Urhoboland to man that office arguing that, only that can guarantee success and bring succour to the people.”
“The training of ex-militants, youths and persons by the Amnesty office he noted have been such that favours only one tribe while others are scantily included saying; the Renewed Hope mantra of the present administration shouldn’t be in the papers alone without commensurate actions intended to improve the lives of the people and the environment in action.
Expressing disappointment, the group expressed dissatisfaction with the management of the programme over the years, giving it a below-average rating. They called on the government to adopt a new approach aimed at ensuring the happiness of the people, while addressing the issue of ethnic imbalance in selecting program leaders.
Regrettably, the group highlighted that instead of enhancing the well-being of the people, the programme has been unfairly tilted towards specific groups, turning it into a source of financial gain for individuals close to the presidency. This detrimental behavior undermines the welfare of the larger population. The group emphasized the need for a positive change in this regard so that the efforts made by those who previously confronted the system will not have been in vain.
“The office is a special intervention agency aimed at addressing the wrongs of the past by balancing development and growth as against the marginalisation of the people of Niger Delta region but unfortunately most of our people who were appointed to manage the office chose to grow their bank accounts at the detriment of the larger population. “Billions of naira had been voted for that office in the past with little or no visible development on ground to show for the humongous amounts budgeted for that office and its most unfortunate. This is why we are calling on the government to look elsewhere in the appointment of a new Chairman for Presidential Amnesty Programme and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs to re-engineer a new amnesty programme. In this regard, the Urhobo nation has never been appointed to the office and this is the time the FG should look in that direction by appointing an Urhobo man to manage the programme for the betterment of all. We owe posterity a duty of responsibility, particularly taking the dividends of that office to all and sundry without preferential considerations,” the Ukwani Local Government Area, Delta State-born activist stated.