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We Won’t Reverse Rejection of Amnesty.

Say South-South Governors

Shola O’Neil, Warri and Bisi Olaniyi, Port Harcourt for The Nation
04/08/2009

Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has said there is no going back on the South-South governors’ decision to dump the Federal Government’s amnesty plan, if the need arises. Uduaghan, who hosted the governors’ meeting where the decision was taken, said: "We (South-South Governors) stand by our Asaba Declaration".

He spoke, just as the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) urged the governors to back their talk with action. Uduaghan, in an exclusive interview with The Nation, warned that the region could return to ‘Ground Zero’ unless the government addressed the post-amnesty and other pending issues in the region.

Insisting that the governors’ decision to pull out of the amnesty plan was irrevocable, Uduaghan said the exercise would amount to nothing unless President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration addressed the issue and others that informed their action.

The governor warned of dire consequences and greater unrests in the region if the amnesty plan fails saying: "If the amnesty fails, it will be disastrous".

He said some key elements needed for the plan to succeed were being avoided by the government and its agencies, noting that the issues raised by the governors were germane to the success of the proposal.

Hear him: "All we are doing as South/South Governors is to ensure the success of the amnesty. For the amnesty to succeed certain things have to be put in place and we are not seeing these things being put in place.

"Instead we are seeing things that will move the region backwards; we are seeing the Petroleum Industry Bill that is so antagonistic to the region; we are seeing the Petroleum University slipping away from us and we do not see any post-amnesty plan being put in place. We are even seeing some of our top officials being pushed away from the oil industry, especially the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

"So, what we are saying is that if these things are not being done and if these things are not corrected, what are you talking about amnesty; we would be going back to Ground Zero. This is what we are saying that we cannot afford for the amnesty to fail. So all what we are saying is do these things and the amnesty will succeed," he added.

"Uduaghan dismissed Elder Godsday Orubebe, the Minister of State for the Niger Delta, who has been vocal in his criticism of the governors’ decision saying: "I want to be more focused; I am looking at bigger issues and those are distractions and I do not want to be distracted."

The governor disclosed that all was set for oil companies to return to fix the about 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) oil producing facilities damaged by militants.

He said he had received assurances from leaders of the various communities that the youths would behave as his administration begins to return displaced inhabitants to their homes.

"Everybody has lost something, state has lost something, communities and oil companies have lost something. I’ve been discussing with the oil company and what they require now is security to repair their oil facilities and we have secured that assurance now from the youths.

They would no longer attack oil facilities as long as we keep to our parts of the bargain. I believe that the oil companies will take advantage of this and start repairing their facilities."

Uduaghan expressed confidence that something positive could come out of the crisis, hoping that the riverside communities could be more peaceful.

"He revealed plans to develop some new and modern communities out of the Ijaw communities ravaged by intense bombardments by the Joint Task Force during the eight-week military operation around Gbaramatu Kingdom and other communities.

In an online letter to the governors, MEND, said it believed in backing talks with actions and never had time for playing politics with sensitive matters bordering on emancipation of the neglected, but crude oil and gas-rich region.

Keywords:
Emmanuel Uduaghan, Godsday Orubebe, Gbaramatu

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