Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chairman, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Hon. Kingsley Kuku, in Washington DC insisted that the current relative peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta is tied to the continued stay in office of President Goodluck Jonathan and strongly urged the American government to throw its full weight behind the President.
Kuku, who stated this at an interactive session with very senior officials of the U.S. State Department led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (Bureau of African Affairs), Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum, told the Americans that only President Jonathan can guarantee peace in the Niger Delta hence the compelling need to persuade him to seek re-election in 2015.
“It is true that the Presidential Amnesty Programme has engendered peace, safety and security in the sensitive and strategic Niger Delta. Permit me to add that the peace that currently prevails in the zone is largely because Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who is from that same place, is the President of Nigeria. That is the truth. It is only a Jonathan presidency that can guarantee continued peace and energy security in the Niger Delta,” Kuku asserted.
The presidential aide cautioned that the consequences would be dire if the U.S gets distracted by the activities of terror cells in some parts of northern Nigeria and takes its attention off the Niger Delta.
“Terrorism is a global phenomenon. President Jonathan inherited the situation in northern Nigeria and he has adopted a multifaceted approach to tackle this unfortunate situation. So far, profound results are being achieved. But I insist that this must not distract the U.S. and the international community from giving the Niger Delta region of Nigeria the requisite attention.”
The Niger Delta, Kuku maintained, is rather too strategic to be relegated to the background in spite of the terrorist activities in parts of the north.
“I hope the U.S. is aware that with peace and stability in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s economy will remain buoyant enough to empower the Federal Government to contend with terrorism and other forms of insecurity in other parts of the country. However if we allow any thing to hurt the peace in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s economy will be endangered and energy security in Nigeria and even America will not be guaranteed. The attention and interest of the U.S. in Nigeria must remain the stability of the Niger Delta and the easiest way to ensure this is to encourage President Jonathan to complete an eight-year term,” Kuku added.
The Special Adviser told the session that the Niger Delta continues to yearn for attention and development.
“In spite of the peace that prevails in the Niger Delta now, the issues that led to militancy in the first place are yet to be properly addressed. The issues of development, greater say in the control of the resource that comes from the place, issues of environmental remediation, youth unemployment among others are still there. However, the agitators are prepared to patiently await development as long as one of their own, Dr. Jonathan remains the President, and I think this is one thing the American government should reflect seriously on,”
Kuku further sought the practical support of the Americans for the amnesty programme, particularly the critical reintegration phase of the programme.
In particular, Kuku told the State Department that the Amnesty Office was open to any form of technical assistance that would facilitate the creation of jobs and employment opportunities for thousands of Niger Delta youths that have been offered skills and vocational training through the programme.
Ambassador Teitelbaum, while admitting that his country was worried about the activities of terror cells in northern Nigeria, said the U.S remains committed to deepening of the peace in the Niger Delta.
Affirming that America views the amnesty programme as a huge success, Teitelbaum said the State Department will brief several other organs of the U.S. Government on possible ways of offering technical support to the amnesty programme.
At another meeting with members of the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) in Washington DC on Thursday, Kuku challenged international investors, particularly Americans, to leverage on the relative peace that the amnesty programme has engendered in the Niger Delta to invest in the region.
He contended that the much-needed investments in the relatively stable and peaceful Niger Delta would help stimulate the economy of the zone and create jobs for the youths that have received skills and vocational training under the amnesty programme.
The CCA, a nonprofit, membership-based body, is the premier American organization devoted to U.S.-Africa business relations and includes as members more than 180 companies, which represent nearly 85 per cent of total U.S. private sector investments in Africa.
CCA members range from America’s smallest to largest corporations. They represent a diverse pool of industries from more than 20 key sectors, including agribusiness, energy, infrastructure, security, power, healthcare, telecommunications and finance.
The Council is also reputedly the leading source of the most up-to-date information on business across Africa and works closely with governments, multilateral groups and businesses to improve the Africa’s trade and investment climate, and to raise the continent’s profile in the U.S. business community.
Kuku took members of the Council through developments in the Niger Delta, particularly the amnesty programme for former agitators in the region.
He told the members that following the proclamation and the acceptance of amnesty by former agitators in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s economy witnessed astronomical growth as crude oil production, which had declined to as low as 700,000 barrels per day in the first quarter of 2009, has been rising steadily and currently stands about 2.6 million barrels per day.
He attributed the success of the programme to the staunch backing of President Jonathan and the National Assembly.
Kuku however warned that unless the thousands of youths being offered skills and vocational training by the Amnesty Office become gainfully employed, peace may once again elude the Niger Delta.
“We were given the mandate to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate these ex-agitators. We are doing just that and peace has returned to the Niger Delta as several of the ex-agitators are now very busy in schools and vocational centres across the world. But what becomes of them after their training is our biggest challenge now. On our part, we have done our best but we now need the practical support of all persons and nations who truly seek and want peace in the Niger Delta, to join efforts to create employment opportunities for our youths,” Kuku told the American investors.
The Presidential Adviser disclosed at the session that over 9,000 ex-agitators have completed their training and that several of them are currently being directly assisted by the Amnesty Office to set up small and medium scale businesses.
“Just two weeks ago, we distributed assortments of start-up equipment to 300 already trained former agitators to commence their respective businesses. We are going to do more of that this year. But it will be impossible for us to do that for the totally enrolled number of 30,000 persons in the programme. This is where we need help. This is where international investors, particularly Americans, must come in to help deepen the peace and help development in the Niger Delta,” Kuku appealed.
With huge oil and gas reserves, vast marine resources and untapped potential in agriculture, the Niger Delta, according to Kuku, has become Nigeria’s investors’ heaven and urged American businessmen to tap-in.
He told the CCA members that it was in anticipation of the eventual involvement of international partners and investors in the development of the Niger Delta that the Amnesty Office resolved from the outset to train the ex-agitators in vocations that are relevant to the investment potential in the zone.
“You will be coming to a part of Nigeria that currently has huge manpower resource. We have trained thousands of our youths to provide qualitative services in virtually all sectors of human endeavor, especially in that part of the country. I have come to let you know that the Niger Delta is now ready for massive investments. We have peace and safety in the zone. There is also abundant natural and human resources. The Niger Delta is clearly the place to be now,” he further stated.
In his remarks, the CCA President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Stephen Hayes, said the Council was irrevocably committed to attracting American investors to Africa.
He assured that following Kuku’s appeal, members will explore more opportunities in Nigeria, particularly the Niger Delta.