From Ameachi Prosper( The New Diplomat’s Delta state correspondent)
The Pioneer Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), a retired Air Marshal and royal father, HRM. (AVM) Lucky Ochuko Ararile (rtd.), Avwaeke 1, the Ovie of Umiaghwa-Abraka, has revealed how the death of former president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua affected the development of the Niger Delta region.
Speaking when the interim administrator of PAP, Col. Milland Dikio (rtd), paid him a visit in Oria, Ethiope East LGA, the monarch disclosed that a $4 billion proposed for the infrastructural turn around of the Niger Delta region could not be realized due to the death of president Yar’Adua.
He identified the issue of lack of funding as part of the problem confronting the amnesty programme when he served in the capacity as Coordinator, just as he commended the initiative of late president Musa Yar’Adua for initiating the East-West Road and the construction of the coastal rail lines to link all the Niger Delta states.
The traditional ruler also advised the Interim Administrator to see the assignment as a thankless job.
He said: “I retired from the Airforce in 2010 and I was the Chief Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme in 2009.
“Specifically, it was inaugurated by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on the 25th of June 2009. There was a planning committee that came up with a plan for the programme before I was appointed and my assignment was to implement it.”
According to the retired Air Marshal Ararile, “when we took over we met with a lot of challenges because immediately Yar’Adua appointed us, he fell ill.”
He added: “Because the president was indisposed, a lot of decision that ought to have been made could not be made and it was to the benefit of the militants.
“When we started, the plan was 5, 000 militants while the committee suggested 10, 000. When we started we got about 10, 000 and by the time I handed over we had about 20, 000 that we were paying.
“The initial plan at the beginning was that there was a programme for the ex-militants and then another for the region to tackle regional development.
“The second was majorly for infrastructure. That was when they started hearing of coastal line, East West Road and all that in the developmental stage.
“The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was also a part of the amnesty programme. We were looking for a holistic way of solving the problem of the Niger Delta once and for all and not just militants.
“After the militants it would have been the programme looking at other youths by way of infrastructural development.
“Sadly, the rail way line, nothing has been done; the East West Road has become a drain pipe. The PIB is still in the making since 2009 and the National Assembly is still talking about concluding it in six months time.
“So you can see the lack of seriousness in addressing the issues of the Niger Delta.”
Speaking further, he disclosed that there were five committees then and one of them was for infrastructure, saying that they were not inaugurated because of the president’s ill health.
He said: “President Yar’ adua was passionate about the Niger Delta unlike what we had after me even when a Niger Deltan was president. He was to invest four billion dollars in the Niger Delta.”
Earlier, Col. Dixon described Ararile as an outstanding retired military officer, saying he has come to receive royal blessings and to also tap from his wealth of experience in order to move the Presidential Amnesty Programme forward in achieving the vision of making a success of the entrepreneurship of the ex-agitators, and pursuing a total reformation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
He noted that the programme had become an ‘Abuja thing’, but said that his team are working to take it back to the people of the Niger Delta.
He said that the payment of N65, 000 created a dependency syndrome and that the training package has somehow not recognized the unique attributes and environment of the Niger Delta.
He also stressed that that apart from the militants being taken care of, under him the other committees will work effectively to bring about positive change to the Niger Delta.