Reuben Wilson, popularly called General Pastor is the President, Leadership Peace, Cultural and Development Initiative, a body comprising of 90% of the first phase leaders of Ex-militants working together to sustain peace in the Niger-delta since the introduction of Amnesty in 2009. In this interview with AKAM JAMES in Yenagoa, Wilson speaks on what he called the monumental fraud in NDDC, the unfulfilled promises of Federal Government in the Amnesty Programme and the need for IOC’s to relocate to the Niger-delta region, among other issues.
How has the Federal Government’s Amnesty Programme for Ex-agitators benefited the Niger- Delta region?
On this issue I have to pour out my mind and say all I know about the programme, because I was one of the first persons the late President Musa Yar’Adua invited so the programme, it happened before my very eyes.
We were 32 leaders that were invited at first and we went to Abuja, met with the then President and discussed, but the truth remains that all what was discussed concerning the benefits have not been implemented.
When we started we had the likes of Gen Lami, Kuku, Timi Alaibe, Ferdinand and Fred, the Amnesty initiator, with the hopes that those things will be implemented, but till now to no avail.
The key thing was that the Federal Government promised that the people who were willing to learn will be trained, those to undergo craft will also be trained and empowered and the leaders treated as his own people without any regret of renouncing militancy.
The President noted that while we were in the creek we offended a lot of people with our activities, so there will be adequate security in order to prevent this same people from retaliating.
The issue of life line as a means of survival through business for the leaders was also promised, we were also promised oil blocs for the leaders to manage and also accommodation in any part of the country, the truth remains that the leaders have been treated unfairly.
So, how is the journey so far?
Amnesty has been poorly managed, till this moment the leaders receives only sixty five thousand as monthly stipend as the other boys, few of us went for the leadership tour and training, but some persons were deprived till now.
The most important thing we were thinking would have happened was the lifeline issue as agreed, but till now it was not implemented.
It is sad that most of the people sent on scholarship still wish to further their education, but they are stranded because the Amnesty office said they can’t fund their masters degree programme and even as we speak most of the beneficiaries have not even gone to Obubra for the integration training.
That is human development, what of the region in terms of development?
No, no, we will get to that, I just want to explain developing the capacity of human first because before you can develop the area you have to work on the people so they won’t think of going back to attack.
Most of the people who are through with their training are yet to get employment, and the story is that the multinational companies are turning them down under the pretence of unrecognised certificates, and
we get so worried because the government is not doing anything towards that direction, while oil companies employ their cronies without any qualifications to show.
We have thousands of our people who were trained, but not engaged by the government and are employed in our private businesses.
The Federal Government should order the companies to employ them because most of the attacks on oil installations are people who are qualified to work but are deprived, our qualified sisters are asked for sex before employment and when they refuse they are denied employment.
The current Presidential Adviser on Amnesty, Paul Boroh is doing his best with the agricultural initiatives which is a welcome development, but the agricultural programme is not impactful because our area is mostly riverine and not land, so how do we farm?
They should also provide avenue for people to express their talent and turn it to money rather than killing their destiny.
The Amnesty office should engage Ex- militant leaders to discuss and brainstorm on things that will benefit the people. Most of the people benefiting are not part of the programme and that should stop immediately.
As the President of all the leaders, I have on different occasions been accused of bribery and that I can’t mobilise to face and resist most of these things, but I use to tell them that they are humans like us who needs encouragement to do their work.
I was accused of receiving N5 billion, and after Kuku left office I was arrested, but later released because there was nothing indicting against me.
Recently I have been accused again that Paul Boroh bribed me against their detriment, just because I always advise them not to protest against the government.
We the leaders have lost total hope on the Amnesty Programme because there’s no sign of benefiting from the earlier promise of the Federal Government, we are just left out of the programme.
There’s no office in this country where they operate same salary structure for everyone in an organisation, and that is what we experience here, we are being denied so many things.
I was awarded 20 persons to train, but till date I haven’t been paid for the job. None of the leaders are happy because we are not carried along in the process.
On the development of the region, I will not blame the current administration because we had opportunity to develop the whole region to what we want, but rather we were busy turning other regions to please them so I can’t blame anyone.
The truth is that the region has been sidelined for too long, the road from Benin to Auchi is so bad, the Mbiama axis and Kaiama close to us is worst.
We still have opportunities that could help build the region, like the NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission), Ministry of Niger-Delta, but the people are there for their selfish reasons, how can a man spend over a billion naira in renovating an office instead of spending it on the region.
What is your view on the fact that projects awarded through the NDDC under Jonathan were 90 percent abandoned?
Now let me tell you something, what they do in NDDC is that they give you contract, before you get APG you will spend so much, and before you will be paid 15 percent you will spend monies so much that when you get paid it will be inadequate to finish the job, so they rather abandon it.
It is not supposed to be that way, most times contractors acquire loan and because of the delay in payment the interest becomes too high also leading to abandoned projects.
NDDC gives contract and yet collect 25 percent of the money meant for the contract, so how do they expect you to do the contract.
The NDDC should devise another means of assigning people of a particular community to monitor jobs while money is released to NDDC to contractors and we will never experience any abandoned projects.
Recently monies were released to NDDC, can they tell me how many contractors have been paid, but rather they fly abroad every weekend and share monies for their private use.
Just look at the monumental fraud within the organisation, EFCC arrested some of them recently, the cabal in NDDC gave out contract and took bulk monies without doing anything.
I am not condemning anyone but the truth must be said and it is the right thing down. Look at what happened in 2011 in my community, Koluama in Southern Ijaw LGA, a gas explosion and till now nothing has been done, the people are living in pains, our only occupation of livelihood is fishing business and they can’t go fishing again.
The oil companies are busy working, the Federal Government is making so much money from them, and the community doesn’t have any NDDC or Federal project. Apart from the state projects, so why are they taking the oil from us?
The order for the Relocation of International Oil Companies’ (IOC) headquarters to the Niger-Delta region, what’s your view?
The truth is that the oil companies believe that if they move to Niger-Delta, if their head quarters move to Niger-Delta they will be attacked,
I told them that what they are saying is wrong, if their equipment are here and they are making money why can’t their headquarters also reside here, Conoil, Agip, Chevron they are still here today no attack,
so why will people say if they move their headquarters to Niger Delta they will be attacked, for me am in support of relocating the headquarters to Niger-Delta,
we want to bring them to Niger-Delta that is the truth, or they forget about the oil. This is going to help the people get employed and boost the internally generated revenue that will be gotten from tax if they are domiciled within the region.
They are complaining that they don’t have guarantee, they will be safe from the militants if they relocate to Niger-Delta where they are sourcing for oil.
Our state governors are very good, the Niger-Delta state governors Bayelsa, Rivers, Imo, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Ondo, Abia state governors are very good.
Why won’t the companies come and establish their headquarters here so that the Niger-Delta states can get more developed and get the large amount of tax to develop the states and save people from dying of poverty.
All those taxes paid to Lagos State will come to these states. We are planning the mother of all protest in that regard across the Niger-Delta.
They have to come since they are operating here and if anything happens to them we should be held responsible.
We assure them maximum security and if we fail the Federal Government should arrest us. Do you know how many people that will be employed if they relocate here?
The October deadline by groups to declare Niger-Delta Republic?
When someone or a group says something, as a government what you do is to try and meet with them to know their reasons for their agitations, so that they can express themselves and you act accordingly and solve the whole issue.
Sometimes the issue might not be serious as they say it, Niger- Delta people are marginalised for so long time that is simply the reason.
The Vice- President is moving around the region which is a welcome development, but his words should be matched with actions.
Do you know that since they talked about the surveillance job for youths of the region to protect pipeline the issue is still pending, the modular refinery issue when are we going to start.
Two in a state is not even enough, opportunities should be given to our people to operate with their foreign partners who will be interested.
Two refineries is not a fair deal which are things that will douse the crisis in the region. Those that have the capacity should operate it, am pleading with the Federal Government to have a second thought by increasing the slots in the different states.
Do you still have hope in the Federal Government, considering their numerous failed attitude?
That is what I just said about the Vice-President, if they proclaim anything it should be implemented immediately, if so it’s very hard to believe.
With all the setback experienced and further frustration in the Amnesty Programme, are we foreseeing a regroup of militancy?
You can’t achieve anything through violence, this is not the time for violence and I can’t even advice anyone to resolve to violence.
We will continue to agitate, but not by violence, the media will help us in propagating our message so that government will feel our pains.
You see this Niger-Delta where oil companies complain of being attacked, they refuse to cooperate with the leaders from those areas, we have been operating in this area for long, but they won’t want to partner with us.
All we need do is just partner with security agencies and clean the area off criminality. The companies are also the problem of our people, they work with you and when they’re strong they will begin to sideline the community contractors out and they bring their brothers to replace them.
You suffer with a company from the start but when you grow they throw you away while they’re benefiting from you. All our people working are all contract staff, can’t we work as direct staff, but inspite of all this Niger-Delta will never go back to arm struggle again. I will keep preaching the peace message for everyone.
With the plenty groups Biafra, IPOB, MASSOB and others, are you worried at all?
Am of the opinion of one Nigeria, only the will of God will prevail at the right time, nobody’ destiny can be taken except by God.
Why won’t the companies come and establish their headquarters here so that the Niger-Delta states can get more developed and get the large amount of tax to develop the states and save people from dying of poverty. All those taxes paid to Lagos State will come to these states. We are planning the mother of all protest in that regard across the Niger-Delta. They have to come since they are operating here and if anything happens to them we should be held responsible. We assure them maximum security and if we fail the Federal Government should arrest us