By Sola Adebayo and Ibanga Isine:

The Federal Government has released the sum of N8bn to the Presidential Sub-Committee on Disarmament, Rehabilitation and Re-integration of Repentant Militants in the Niger Delta.

The Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd), told our correspondent on the telephone on Sunday that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan had given the order for the release of the fund.

The Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd)

The Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Godwin Abbe

Abbe, who is the chairman of the post-amnesty sub-committee, said the money was meant for the rehabilitation and re-integration of 20,192 ex-militants, who disarmed and accepted presidential offer of amnesty, which expired on October 4, 2009.

He said the N8bn released to the committee by the Federal Ministry of Finance was part of the initial requirement approved by Jonathan for the rehabilitation and re-integration of the ex-militants.

The PUNCH had last week exclusively reported that Jonathan had approved N56.2bn for the exercise.

The Acting President had on Wednesday directed the Minister of Finance, Dr. Mansur Muhtar, to quickly release the funds to allow the committee to commence its activities.

Abbe’s pronouncement coincided with the disclosure by a member of his committee, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, that the rehabilitation and re-integration programmes for the ex-militants would commence simultaneously in the three centres in the Niger Delta on Sunday, March 28.

Kuku, who is also the Secretary, Federal Government’s Committee on Peace and Conflict Resolution in the Niger Delta, said the formal induction of personnel required for the re-integration of the ex-militants and various activities at the camps located in Aluu in Rivers State, as well as Agbarho and Egbokodo-Itsekiri, in Delta State, would commence in Abuja on Wednesday.

Kuku, who spoke in a telephone interview with our correspondent, stated that Wednesday’s induction would be attended by one nominee, preferably the secretary of each of the militant camps, whose members disarmed and submitted their weapons during the amnesty stage.

As one of the representatives of the repentant militants in the committee, Kuku said, “The post-amnesty process is on course after a long delay, we (the committee) are ready to take off and get it right. The rehabilitation programme has been scheduled to take off simultaneously in the three camps in the region on March 28.

“We have inspected the facilities at Aluu in Rivers State and Agbarho and Egbokodo-Itsekiri in Delta State and we are going to beef them up to bearable standards before the March 28 take-off date.

“The camp in Egbokodo-Itsekiri is small, it can only accommodate 300 ex-freedom fighters at a time but it is of better standard.

“The camp in Aluu can take 1,000 ex-militants at a time while that of Agbarho can take 300. The three camps can only take 1,600 men at a time and by implication, it will take a minimum of nine months for the encampment of 20,192 ex-freedom fighters.

“Similarly, the formal induction of the personnel that would be needed for the rehabilitation of the ex-militants and other activities in the camps will take place in Abuja on Wednesday and Thursday.

“All the militant camps that submitted arms and embraced amnesty will be represented by one nominee each, preferably the secretary of the camps.”

Although Abbe said the release of the N8bn to the committee necessitated an immediate take-off of the post-amnesty exercise, he added that the March 28 date was a projection.

He said, “We (the committee) have received N8bn out of our initial requirement so that we can drive on. The Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, directed that the money should be released to us and we have the money with us now. We are going to ensure that all stakeholders are involed in the expenditure pattern to ensure transparency.

“The March 28 date for the exercise is a projection, we are working on it in the new week.”

Meanwhile, an investigation by one of our correspondents showed that as part of measures to ensure a hitch-free programme, the amnesty committee on Thursday visited the three camps to be used for the programme.

The Military Coordinator on Amnesty, AVM Lucky Ararile, led the inspection team.

Other members of the team included the representative of the Inspector-General of Police, Chief Kingsley Kuku, Mr. Selekaye Ben, Mr. Richard Akinaka, Mr. T. K. Ogoriba and one other member of the amnesty committee.

The team was received at the Port Harcourt Air Force Base by the Commander of the 2nd Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. Ladan Yusuf.

Other service commanders in the state were also present to receive the amnesty implementation team.

Shortly after its arrival on a military aircraft, the team took off to Aluu camp, located near the University of Port Harcourt, before leaving for Delta State.

When contacted, a member of the committee, Mr. Richard Akinaka, confirmed that preparations were at an advanced stage to call the ex-militants to camp.

He also confirmed that the Federal Government had released the take-off grant to the committee.

He said, “The preliminary documentation work has been concluded and hopefully within the week, the induction programme will commence.

“Not all the officials to be involved in the camping activities will, however, be called for the induction.

“We are expecting a situation where some of the groups that will be involved in the exercise will send their representatives to the induction.

“Thereafter, those representatives will train the other officials. It is a kind of train-the-trainers’ induction.

“Some ex-militant leaders will be called for the induction because of the strategic role they are expected to play at the camps.

“They will, among other things, identify the real ex-militants from those who registered because of the money they are collecting from the government.

“That will form part of the data verification process planed by the presidential committee. We discovered that some persons who were not militants came into the programme because of the money involved.

“We went to the camps to carry out an on-the-spot assessment of their readiness for the commencement of the rehabilitation process. We did that to ensure that there would be no problem when camping activities begin.

“We appeal to people from the region to give the government a little time. All the issues relating to the rehabilitation of the ex-fighters will be addressed.”

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