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Nigerian President Responds to Niger Delta Governors Pleas

  • Kim Lewis

Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has responded positively to a request from Niger Delta governors to spur development. At a meeting Wednesday, the president said he will direct the Niger Delta Development Commission to help carry out projects previously promised by (deceased) President (Umar) Yar'Adua.

The governors asked President Jonathan to fast-track development in the region and rehabilitate militants, who have laid down their arms under the amnesty program.

The meeting was held just as the government increased security in the oil-rich area, creating what the president calls an Anti-Terrorism Squad.

VOA reporter Chinedu Offor, who is on assignment in Nigeria, says, “The governors of the area went to the president, who is from the Niger Delta, to remind him of the danger of not carrying out the government’s promises, and also to do something pretty quickly because some of the former militants are turning. Some are taking to armed robbery and also kidnapping, and that is affecting security in the area.”

The governors say the president’s effort to improve security in the area will not solve long-term problems.

“If the militants are not given something to do or if they are not gainfully employed, they might turn to crime,” says Offor. He added that it’s important to do something about President YarA’dua’s promises -- “that is not just to rehabilitate the militants but to give them some monthly stipends and take some of them abroad to train them. For those who want to stay in Nigeria,” said Offor, “give them jobs.”

“On the rehabilitation of militants, it was agreed that within the next six months, about 2,000…will be trained in batches, and they are hoping to get a total of about 20,000. They are being trained in vocational training centers and education will be paid for up to the university level,” explained Offor.

He added that job training will be in the oil services sector, business ownership, carpentry and mechanics.