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Oil theft: Navy destroys 347 illegal refineries in five months

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As crude oil theft and illegal refining continue in the Niger Delta region, the Nigerian Navy says it has destroyed no fewer than 347 illegal refineries in the last five months.

It stated that the proliferation of illegal refineries had been an enabler of crude oil theft because access to crude supply through vandalism of pipelines had kept the illegal artisanal refineries alive.

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Speaking during a visit to Punch Nigeria Limited, the Director of Information at the Naval Headquarters, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, noted that host communities, traditional rulers and other leaders in the region had a role to play in the reorientation of the perpetrators, especially young people. He said the menace posed serious danger to the environment and was impacting negatively on the country’s revenue.

With about 400,000 barrels of crude oil said to be stolen daily, the rate of oil theft in the country has been described by many persons and organisations as economic sabotage, given the way it erodes the country’s revenue from crude oil export, the mainstay of the country’s economy. Owing to the menace, Nigeria has been unable to meet its quota as allocated by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

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While OPEC increased the country’s crude oil output quota from 1.799 million barrels per day in July 2022 to 1.826 million barrels per day in August from a peak of 2.4 million bpd previously, the country’s oil production dropped from 1,083,899 bpd in July to 972,394 bpd in August.

On account of the dwindling revenue fuelled by the low oil production, Nigeria has resorted to frequent borrowings, with the country’s debt stock standing at over N41tn, a development that has fuelled concerns by many citizens and organisations.

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Ayo-Vaughan explained, “Since Operation Dakatar de Barawo commenced on April 1, 2022, the illegal refining sites that we have destroyed so far are 347, and we have arrested 143 suspects till date. The perpetrators are usually locals recruited by the main perpetrators in the crime and the proliferation of the illegal refining sites is in many ways fuelling the theft because it’s like a symbiotic relationship.

“Access to oil supply through pipeline vandalism keeps the illegal artisanal refineries alive.”

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Meanwhile, speaking on reports that about 400,000 barrels of crude oil were being stolen daily, Ayo-Vaughan said it was impossible for such to be stolen through the Nigerian waters every day.

He stated, “Yes, we have the challenge of crude oil theft, but there has been a lot of wrong information in the media, particularly in the electronic media. I think the narrative has changed from 400,000 barrels to 100,000 barrels. Recently, the Managing Director of Agip Oil Company and the MD of Total met separately with the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, at the naval headquarters to interact with him.

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“At one time, reports said it was 400,000 bpd. But if you look at what 400,000 barrels translate to, it’s a lot. I know a barrel is about 158.9 litres. So, 100,000 barrels translate to about 15.8 million litres. That is for 100,000 barrels only. The normal tanker takes between 30,000 and 60,000 litres. There is no tanker that takes more than 80,000 litres.

“When you want to move out that quantity of crude, there are no pipelines that run beyond the terminals as we speak. So, the only place this theft can take place is at the terminals and within the creeks where people can vandalise the pipelines. The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (Mele Kyari) said they even discovered that some people siphon the oil and store it in churches and mosques. That’s from their local intelligence.

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“People siphon this crude and supply the illegal refineries. The first issue; if you are saying Nigeria loses about 100,000 barrels per day, which translates to about 15 million litres; for you to lift that quantity of oil, you need to have perhaps a five-tonne barge that will have to go about 3,000-plus trips a day to the high sea. The movement of 3,000 barges cannot take place like that.”

He said the navy was not the only security agency in the creeks, adding that there were soldiers, personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and marine police.

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The naval spokesman stated, “Are we saying all these people will allow the movement of 3,000 barges in one day, not to talk of two days, one week or a month? Honestly, it is practically impossible.

“That is my opinion and that is the stand of the navy; that to move 3,000 barges in a day to convey 100,000 barrels is practically impossible.”

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When asked where the shortage could be coming from, he said it would be the illegal refiners.

He added, “What it means is that whatever is stolen in the creeks is used to supply the local illegal refineries and the navy has been hard on the operators of those refineries. Some of the things we hear as losses or thefts are actually the inability to transport the crude from the point of exploration through the pipelines.

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“There is a pipeline called the Trans-Niger pipeline. One of the heads of international oil companies said for a long time they had to shut down that pipeline because they found that when they open it, what gets to the terminal or what gets to the destination was not what was released, so there is a lot of stealing.

“This brings the aspect of the will and persuasion of the political leaders in the Niger Delta to talk to their people. Apart from the loss, the environmental impact is huge; there are some areas where 10 to 15 acres of land are burnt and vegetation is gone.”

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He attributed air pollution in the region largely to the activities of illegal refiners, saying the illegal activity informed why the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, led a team to destroy some illegal refineries in some parts of the state; while onshore, the navy was doing everything it could.

Ayo-Vaughan also called on international oil companies to always seal the oil wells that were no longer commercially viable, saying the neglect of such oil wells was attracting illegal refiners.

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FG acquires eight gunboats to fight oil theft
He added, “There is the aspect of the political leaders and the International Oil Companies. The IOCs are the ones that drill the oil wells. When the oil wells are no longer commercially viable, according to international best practices, you are to seal them, but it’s not that the wells are dry. Those wells have not been sealed and we have identified them in the creeks.

“When they don’t seal the oil wells, they are a source for the illegal artisanal refiners. So, there are many sides to it. The Chief of Naval Staff engages regularly with the NNPCL GMD so that as a regulatory body, they compel the IOCs to do the needful. The navy also has put in place checks to identify any person that compromises or becomes complacent in any way.”

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He explained that there were about 3,000 creeks in Delta State and that the locals, using their knowledge of the area more than the security agents, were the ones siphoning the fuel.

The naval spokesman called on members of the public to report any naval officer caught engaging in such an illegality.

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“We welcome any report of compromise or involvement of our personnel with facts, so that the authorities can do the needful,” he added.

‘N30bn products destroyed’
The navy also disclosed that since it launched the Operation Dakata Da Barau, which means ‘Stop the thieves’ in Hausa language, progress had been made and that products worth billions of naira had been confiscated.

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Ayo-Vaughan stated, “There is the problem of onshore pipeline vandalism and siphoning of oil, which the navy has been combating and fighting. On April 1, Operation Dakata Da Barau was launched in collaboration with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited to curb crude oil theft. It is a very big problem in the Niger Delta.

“But be that as it may, the navy is fully mobilised to ensure that operators of artisanal illegal refineries do not succeed in polluting the environment and depriving the nation of resources that should accrue to the Federal Government. In the last five to six months, products worth over N30bn have been seized from these people, denying them those resources for which they would have even expanded their businesses and used for other criminalities.”

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The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria had on Thursday commenced a protest to draw the attention of the government to the scale of crude oil theft in the country. Members threatened to halt operations if nothing was done to arrest the menace.

Theft huge – IPMAN
Commenting on the menace of oil theft, the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, told one of our correspondents that though there was no accurate data on oil theft, the volume of crude stolen from the country was huge.

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He said, “On the quantity of oil being stolen from Nigeria, the various figures you see are all estimated figures. There is no accurate gauge to measure the volume of crude oil being stolen in this country, because we don’t have a standard measuring system.

“Also, I don’t know if there is any forensic investigation that has been conducted by any of our institutions, whether by PENGASSAN or the NUPRC (Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission) on this matter because we don’t know of such.

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“So these figures are all estimated quotations by the various stakeholders and individuals, and therefore, IPMAN will not align with these numbers.’’

He said Nigeria was losing a lot of revenue from oil theft and that stakeholders were unhappy with the way the cartel involved was handling the matter.

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“It is therefore pertinent that the Federal Government should come out with a standard measuring instrument that will give the exact number of daily production, export data and the amount being reserved as well as what we channel for local use,” Chinedu added.

The Chairman, Rivers State Civil Society Organisation, Enefaa Georgewill, said even though there were local collaborators, the major perpetrators of illegal oil bunkering had always been the people in government and their internal collaborators.

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He said, “We were all in this country when an oil vessel under former President Olusegun Obasanjo was intercepted. Till today, that ship laden with stolen crude disappeared. That was the one we saw. We won’t pretend that there are no local collaborators, but they are very minute compared to the ones by international collaborators, the military and those in government.

“Secondly, the people are pauperised and cheated. No job, nothing is working and some of them feel we have these things in our backyard. Man must survive, so the local people had to resort to self help.”

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Similarly, an environmentalist and Executive Director, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, Fyneface Dumnamene, said it was wrong to say illegal oil bunkering or illegal artisanal crude oil refining was peculiar to the Niger Delta.

“It is something that Nigerians from all parts of the country are involved in. If you visit an artisanal refining site in the Niger Delta, you will find people from all other ethnic groups there. Besides, they come to the Niger Delta and smuggle oil to other parts of the country to refine. So, it is a collective responsibility,” he said.

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Speaking on the way forward, Dumnamene said, “The surest way to end illegal oil bunkering in this region is for the government to find alternative livelihood opportunities for youths who are involved in the trade. By this, we need to talk about the modular refineries that the presidency talked about in 2017.

“We also need to legalise artisanal crude oil refining. Sell crude oil to them and they can refine under a framework that is more environmentally friendly. Another thing that can help is the industrial park Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo talked about. It will help to engage many youths.”

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Panic As Robbers Attack Church In Kogi Community, Steal Cash Sums, Valuables

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Armed robbers have invaded a church, named the New Life Gospel Church at Sariki-Noma, a suburb of Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, and carted away an unspecified sum of money, phones and church property.

It was learnt that the gunmen, who came in numbers, attacked the church when its elders converged to hold night prayers.

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Confirming the incident, the resident Pastor of New Life Gospel Church, Sarikinoma, Pastor Olorunfemi Ojo, said they noticed that three unknown men were trying to force their way into Victory Primary School beside the church and were confronted before they left.

Explaining further, Pastor Ojo said, “shortly after, some unknown men numbering up to about fifteen of them alongside the three that had come earlier invaded the Church by destroying the windows and forcing their way into the church building, hitting them with planks, broken bottles, and stones, hurting the elderly men before they ran for their lives.

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“Two of the church elders sustained several degrees of injury and have been rushed to an undisclosed hospital for treatment”.

Pastor Femi Ojo said that the attackers, after unleashing their mayhem, went away with some of the church properties, collected phones, and cash, leaving the church building with broken bottles, stones, and planks and in shambles

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The cleric noted that while they scampered for safety, he went to the road to seek help from the vigilante in the area but was told that they had just gone on a patrol.

“The men were later caught by vigilantes as they tried to carry out another round of robbery in the area. Some of the perpetrators have been nabbed while others are at large,” he added.

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Pastor Femi Ojo, who appreciated the vigilante group, told Daily Post that the police had been contacted and had come to see the level of damage in the church.

The cleric, however, thanked the police for their prompt intervention while urging them to intensify efforts to bring the perpetrators to book.

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When contacted, the Kogi State Police Public Relations Officer, SP William Aya, said his office has not been briefed about the incident by the Nigeria Police B division in Lokoja.

He, however, promised to revert to Newsmen when he obtained information about the incident.

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Abuja Court Ruling: Tinubu, Ekiti Gov-Elect, Other APC Candidates Risk Disqualification

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THERE is growing concern in the All Progressives Congress over the judgement of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja which nullified the nomination of Governor Isiaka Oyetola and his deputy governorship candidate, Benedict Alabi, for the 2022 Osun State governorship election.

Ruling on a suit filed by the People’s Democratic Party challenging the nomination of Oyetola and Alabi, Justice Emeka Nwite agreed with the submission of the PDP on the grounds that Governor Mai Mala Buni who submitted their names to INEC violated the provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Section 82(3) of the Electoral Act 2022.

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The court declared that Governor Mai Mala Buni acted in contravention of the provision of Section 183 of the Constitution when he held dual executive positions as the Governor of Yobe State and the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of APC.

The provisions of Section 183 read in part: “The Governor, shall not, during the period he holds office, holds any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever.”

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While the legal representatives of Osun State governor had promised to appeal the ruling, its implication, Sunday Tribune learnt, is already causing panic in the ruling party.

According to legal opinions on the issue, the ruling in its current subsisting nature, means that all actions of Buni while in office as APC acting boss, stand invalidated.

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These actions, include the signing of the nomination of Ekiti governor-elect Abiodun Oyebanji, as APC candidate for the June 18, 2022 poll in the state, the nominations of candidates for other outlier legislative polls, as well as the conduct of the party’s elective national convention which gave birth to the current NWC, among others.

The biggest threat posed by the ruling to APC, is the possible consequential disqualification of all its candidates for the 2023 poll, including the presidential ticket of Senator Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, considering that Adamu’s NWC, conducted the primaries.

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Once the NWC is invalidated by the reason of Buni’s involvement, all actions of the NWC, would be deemed null and void.

Reacting to the unfolding legal drama, constitutional lawyer, Dr Kayode Ajulo, said “It is a plague that could have been avoided if only they took my position on Governor Buni’s chairmanship misadventures serious. But the judgement has vindicated me.”

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In an earlier statement, dated July 31, 2021, he warned that the party could come to greater grief if Buni stayed, considering the subtle warning in the favourable majority decision.

On Saturday, Ajulo referenced the statement which read in part; “Without prejudice to the ratio decidendi of the majority decision of the Court, it is imperative to state pressistimo and very clearly too that with the unanimous position of the Apex Court that it appears the actions of the APC in permitting a sitting Governor as the Interim Chairman of the Party is in violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is my sincere view that the Interim Chairman of the APC should immediately step down. My humble but cosmic review of the judgment comes with an indication that the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni has to vacate his seat, as the Chairman of APC with immediate effect.”

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Breaking down the implication of the Friday ruling, he said if the apex court goes with the decision of the high court, the current National Executive of the party, will have to go.

“If the Supreme Court upheld the judgment, the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, and other APC candidates for every elective position will have no business in participating in the 2023 General Election.

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“Can one put something on nothing and expect it to stand? Unless some strategic steps are quickly taken, invalidation of the party’s executives and candidates across all levels will be a great disaster to the APC and could mark its total collapse. This development is a stern warning to politicians to henceforth have regards for law and reasoned thoughts,” he reasoned.

But the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr Felix Morka, a lawyer, dismissed the fears being expressed as misplaced.

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Speaking with Sunday Tribune in an interview, Morka expressed confidence that the judgment of the High Court would be set aside by the Court of Appeal.

He maintained that Justice Nwite erred in his pronouncement.

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He said:” The judgment of the Court is unsupportable. We are confident that the Court of Appeal will upturn the judgment.

“It isn’t supportable by fact of law. What the Governor Buni Caretaker did was ratified by Convention, which is the highest organ of the Party. The Court didn’t avert itself to the fact of the matter.

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“So, there is nothing to worry about. That decision will be challenged and we are confident that the Court of Appeal will upturn it.”

In the Friday ruling, the court, headed by Justice Emeka Nwite, sided with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which initiated the suit, primarily to disqualify Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State, as the candidate of the ruling party in the July 16, 2022 governorship election in the state, eventually won PDP’s candidate, Ademola Adeleke.

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But the suit, commenced on April 7, 2022 may be doing a more significant damage to the fortunes of the ruling party, across board, with the trial judge upholding the argument that all Buni’s actions in office as the party’s acting chair, were null and void.

The party chair, alongside the national secretary, by the dictates of the election laws, signs the nomination of every candidate of the party, before such could be deemed valid, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

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With Justice Nwite ruling that Buni, being governor, should not have held another executive position as the acting chair of the party for two years less 25 days.

It will be recalled that Buni, the sitting governor of Yobe State, was sworn in as the acting chairman of the party by the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, following the controversial ouster of an elected National Working Committee, chaired by former Edo governor, Adams Oshiomhole, by President Muhammadu Buhari-inspired National Executive Council.

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Justice Nwite’s ruling, however, appears in dissonance with the majority decision of the Supreme Court in the appeal arising from Ondo governorship election of October 9, 2020, won by the incumbent Rotimi Akeredolu of APC.

In a razor-thin split decision which favoured him, the apex court held that the conduct of the primary election and nomination of candidates, is an internal affair of a political party, which the judiciary can’t scrutinise.

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The majority decision went further in resolving the appeal brought by Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP that even when a political party is in error of its rules, its internal activities can’t still be challenged. The minority report how- ever ruled that Buni’s acting headship of the ruling party, was an incurable constitutional error, which invalidated Akeredolu’s nomination as the party’s candidate, because it was signed and passed to INEC by Buni.

The minority decision of three justices, out of the seven that heard the appeal, had invalidated Akeredolu’s election victory, because of Buni. While the majority decision didn’t go fully into the con- stitutionality of Buni holding two executive positions at the same time, it ruled that not joining the governor as a necessary party, to argue his case directly, weighed in his favour and by extension, Akeredolu’s.

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The judgement was given on July 28, 2021. Immediately the judgement was delivered, some top party leaders asked Buni to step down, including Minister of State, Labour and Productivity, Festus Keyamo. Buni, aided by his legal team, heavily backed by the deputy senate president, Ovie Omo-Agege, spurned the call.

Keyamo now speaks for Tinubu’s presidential campaign, while serving as minister. Possibly taking its cue from the stance of the majority ruling, PDP, this time, joined Buni as a necessary party in the suit, which was filed almost nine months after Akeredolu’s narrow judicial escape.

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Buni, being joined as a necessary party, must have also emboldened Justice Nwite to go into the merit of the suit, despite the subsisting Supreme Court precedent.

With the appeal arising from the all-important suit expected to advance to the apex court, an opportunity would finally be presented to Buni, to defend himself, and the final court to decide whether he violated the provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Section 82(3) of the Electoral Act 2022, by accepting the acting appointment while serving as governor.

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Bayelsa Monarch, Ijaw Leader Kick against Alleged Plan to Scrap Amnesty Programme

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By Kayode Sanni Arewa

The Federal Government has concluded plans to terminate the Presidential Amnesty Programme in May 2023, NaijaBlitzNews.com has learnt.

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Our correspondents gathered that the office of the National Security Adviser had directed the Interim Administrator of the Amnesty Programme, Major General Barry Ndiomu (retd.), to commence the process of winding down the programme.

Ndiomu, who was appointed about two weeks ago, replaced the former PAP head, Milland Dikio, although no reason was given for his unceremonious removal which was announced in a statement by a presidential media aide, Femi Adesina.

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The Presidential Amnesty Programme was established by President Musa Yar’Adua’s administration in 2009 as part of the government’s measures to reduce militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

It was reported that 30,000 former militants had been enrolled into the programme with over 65 per cent of participants said to have been successfully reintegrated

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Despite reportedly gulping over N5 billion monthly, international development consulting firm, Nextier Security, Peace and Development said the PAP had failed to address the various challenges that necessitated its establishment.

The firm, in a report released in 2020, explained that the programme was taking a heavy toll on the revenue of the Federal Government, while rewarding militancy and aggressiveness in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

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However, multiple sources said Ndiomu had been directed to shut down the programme within eight months.

He was said to have disclosed this to the PAP members of staff during a meeting last week.

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A source said, “The interim administrator informed the (member of) staff during a meeting that the ONSA has directed him to wind down the amnesty programme within eight months. In essence, Ndiomu was appointed as the undertaker of the amnesty programme. The workers were shocked and sad to hear the news.

“But there is no justification for the decision because a similar programme to rehabilitate displaced persons in the North has not been shut down. So, why should they shut down the amnesty programme which is empowering many Niger Deltans? This is unacceptable and may spark another round of unrest in the region.’’

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Another source observed that the scrapping of the amnesty programme was not acceptable to the Niger Delta region, saying the fact that the government awarded a N4.5 billion pipeline protection contract to a former militant leader, Government Ekpemopolo aka Tompolo, was not a tenable reason to end the programme.

But reacting to the development, the President of the Ijaw National Congress, Prof Benjamin Okaba, argued that the government should ‘’re-strategise the programme’’ rather than end it.

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The Ijaw leader admitted that the rehabilitation phase of the amnesty programme had not been fully achieved while the training aspect had successfully produced many beneficiaries.

Okaba, however, said whatever failure had been identified should be blamed on those who were in charge of its operations, insisting that the programme itself did not fail.

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According to the INC leader, the disarmament of the militants was one part of the programme that had run smoothly, adding that the rehabilitation phase posed the greatest problems.

Okaba stated, “What I’m saying is that the amnesty programme itself did not fail, it is the operators of the programme that failed. The intentions of (former) President Yar’Adua in putting together the programme was to address the fundamental developmental question in the Niger Delta.”

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‘’So, if they want to scrap it, what is the alternative to the amnesty programme? Now that there is no alternative to the amnesty programme, I think the best option is to re-strategise.”

When contacted for a reaction on Saturday, the PAP spokesperson, Ms Donu Kogbara, promised to respond on Tuesday but when asked to provide an immediate response, she said, “If you are keen to wrap this up quickly, let me see whether I can talk to the interim administrator later tonight or tomorrow,” in a text message.

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The Head, Strategic Communications, ONSA, Zakari Usman, did not respond to calls and a text message sent to his phone on Saturday

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