By Godwin Anene
Ex-militants undergoing Electric Power Transformer Repairs and Maintenance training under the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), on Monday vowed to return to violence in the creeks of Niger Delta over nonpayment of training allowances.
The trainees, 200 in number, joined by other teeming sympathetic ex-militants moved in placard protest from the Rivers State University, Training Camp to besiege the New GRA Zonal Office of the PAP in Port Harcourt, where they expressed their frustrations and declared demands.
Meanwhile, when contacted, Murphy Ganaga, Spokesman to Prof Charles Dokubo, Coordinator of the PAP, said, “No comment”
Biira Barida, of the Osama Ex-Militants Camp, who spoke for the angry protesters said the training billed to last for nine months has been stalled by stoppage of their N90,000 monthly allowance after just two months payments by the contractor in charge over alleged non remittance by the PAP office.
Barida said, “We resumed 3rd July 2019 only to be asked to go home 31st October due to lack of funding and refusal to pay contractual obligations to contractor/consultant of Electric power Transformer Repairs and Maintenance Training.
“Most disappointing is the fact that power distribution is a major challenge in Nigeria due to very limited skilled and semi-skilled manpower in this technical intensive area. The training was envisioned to grow local capacity in transformer manufacture and maintenance to save millions of dollars on overseas training or technical support.”
He wondered, “If N4.5billion could be expended on procurement of items which were later looted, why can’t Amnesty office pay for this training so essential for national growth? Why does government and its agencies prefer violence to meaningful engagement?”
Among their demands, the protesters called on, “President Buhari to urgently intervene and for PAP under Dokubo to, within the next 7 working days, commence payment for the training classes to resume and enable us reintegrate fully into the society and take care of ourselves and families.
“Failure to heed our peaceful advice to release fund, we shall take this agitation to another level. Federal government and the general public should be informed that we are being forced to recall our former way of life. So, we either go back to class or back to the Cree”
Some of the placards flown by the protesters read, “President Buhari, hear our cry”, Back to Class of Back to Creek, Prof Dokubo, choose for us”, and “Presidential Amnesty Fund For Transformers Repairs Training or We Return to the Creeks”