Amnesty: Success beyond our shores , By Richard Okilo

kingsley-kuku-1.jpg newSome years back it was believed that there was a conspiracy between a section of the international community and some Nigerians to deride the Federal Government Amnesty Programme for former agitators in the Niger Delta and give it a bad name in order to hang it. Thus while most compatriots were hailing the scheme for its resonating success, a few went abroad to sponsor a campaign of calumny in the international media against the programme.
Two years ago, the Wall Street Journal in the United States ran a report by its correspondent Drew Hinshaw. Appearing first on August 22, 2012, it was suddenly culled by almost all the Nigerian newspapers the following day, suggesting ominously that it was a game of conspiracy between local critics and their foreign collaborators.
As a writer noted, the report was “quite long on the pimples of the young blossoming face of the programme, which it contemptuously called ‘gilded pacification’, and short on the enormous economic, political and social gains it has earned for Nigeria.”
The apparently orchestrated publication appeared while a national leader of the country’s opposition party was away to the United States. The relationship between his trip and the timing of the publication in the Wall Street Journal and subsequent lifting in Nigerian dailies the following day was not perceived to be coincidental.
But nearly two years after, owing to the grand accomplishments of the programme, the music has changed. France, a big economic and industrial power in the world has recognized the impact and success of the Amnesty Programme by opening its arms to welcome its initiatives. In a tripartite arrangement, , the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Amnesty Office and the French Government are collaborating to boost access to electricity in the Niger Delta in particular and Nigeria at large.
In early February 2014, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, was invited to the commissioning of the Isaac Boro Energy Training College in Grenoble, France. Inspiringly named after the foremost Niger Delta freedom fighter, the late Major Isaac Adaka Boro, the centre is drawing on the expertise of both Schneider Electric France and the French Education Ministry. Since it opened its doors in France, the school has welcomed 30 Nigerian students from Niger Delta deployed by the Amnesty Office to receive training in Energy Management.
At the end of their studies, the students would receive globally recognized professional certificates endorsed by the Grenoble Education Authority and Schneider Electric France. Observers have also noted that the training will offer the Nigerian students the opportunity to gain not only electrical certification but also complementary qualifications such as Languages and Information Technology.
An excited Kuku declared at the opening of the Isaac Boro Energy Training College: “I am truly delighted at this collaboration between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the French Government. Nigeria is at the verge of a revolution in the power sector. Our President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has reformed the power sector and he is investing heavily in that sector as well. I can attest here that amazing results are being achieved. In fact, we are preparing for a revolution of sorts in the power sector in Nigeria and that is why we have decided to massively develop manpower in that sector in collaboration with the French Government and Schneider Electric of France.”
It is well known that several of the power installations that would aid the attainment of this goal are located in the Niger Delta. Many hold the view that if Nigeria does not train persons in the Niger Delta that would be deeply and properly involved in the generation and distribution of electricity, we may not attain this visionary goal of President Jonathan.
Speaking at the event also, the Nigerian Ambassador to France, Hakeem Suleiman, lauded Schneider and the French Government for deeming it worthwhile to establish a training institute purposely designed to help meet the power needs of Nigeria.
“Prior to today’s commissioning of the Isaac Boro Technical College, I had the honour of touring and inspecting the facilities here. The institute is first class and it is among the best of its kind. Even more important, the establishment of the technical college in France is a reflection of the strategic partnership that exists between Nigeria and France. I can assure the French Government that the Nigerian students will acquire the requisite skills and return home to apply these skills to deepen the Transformation Agenda,” the envoy said.
So, who says Amnesty isn’t working in the national interest? Its success is attested to not only in Nigeria but also in leading global powers showing keen interest in partnering it for mutual benefits.
• Okilo is an environmental development activist based in Warri, Delta State

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