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DEFORESTATION IN NIGERIA; THE CASE OF SHEA TREE PLANTATION AND IT’S ECONOMIC IMPLICATION

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By: Anuoluwa Openiyi

It is no longer a strange phenomenon in Nigeria the extent to which deforestation is occurring in the wild. Deforestation is basically the cutting down of tress in the forest. It is a process where vegetation is cut down without any simultaneous replanting for economic or social reasons. These trees are known to be viable, useful, both for social, economic and developmental purpose. It is believed that Nigeria accounts for the world’s largest place where massive deforestation takes place.

Deforestation is not without any implication as it affects adversely on the social and economic structure of the country. Deforestation also has impacts on social aspects of the country, specifically regarding economic issues, agriculture, conflict, and amongst many other factors. According to data taken over 2000 to 2005, Nigeria, located in the western region of Africa, has the largest deforestation rates in the world, having lost 55.7% of their primary forests (Wikipedia online Resource, 2019). Whereas, primary forests can be seen as forests with no signs or trace of human activities. It can be rightly said that Nigeria has lost a huge part of her primary forest to deforestation due to human actions.

Deforestation in itself is something that is somewhat inevitable, but it will be rightly justified had it been there are adequate continuous re-planting of tree which are been cut down. As part of cases of cutting down of trees in Nigeria is that of ‘Shea Tree’. The Shea Tree is an economic viable tree which grows naturally on its own as it cannot be planted. It grows in specific places in some parts of Nigeria such as Niger, Oyo, and Kebbi States. In recent times, the Shea Tree faces severe victimization of deforestation as the tree is been cut on a large scale. The Shea Tree has economic importance. The fruits could be used for the production of Shea Butter, moisturizing-related products, and many other related items. It provides local employment and economic opportunities to women in rural areas, and also generates a distribution channel for one of its generating products; ‘’Shea Butter’.

Having involved myself to be among a group of social researchers who carried out an empirical study in Oyo and Niger States on the production of ‘Shea butter’ in 2018, certain discoveries were made. The process of this research allowed me to discover the danger the ‘Shea Tree’ is faced with as a result of deforestation. In the process of our findings, I did some photo-documentary of a number of ‘shea trees’ that were hewn already. Findings and field discoveries show that a large number of Shea Trees have been cut down on a large scale. Considering the fact the Shea Tree grows naturally on its own in specific places, the issue of re-planting is out the case. This poses serious challenge for local women who benefits economically from the Shea Tree.

There is a need for urgent step to be taken across board so as to prevent further cutting down of Shea Trees. It is time for policy makers, stakeholders, and academia to come up with policies which would be implemented for the safe-keep of this magnificent natural resource.

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DAPO ABIODUN AND TASCE IMBROGLIO

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By: Ade Balogun

In the twilight of the Amosun-led administration in Ogun State, the media was awash with the heartrending stories of the sufferings of the staff of Tai Solarin College of Education, Ogun State.

We were made to understand, through incontestable facts and figures, that the Ogun State Government owed TASCE staff about 64 months’ salaries. This revelation, coupled with some other excesses of former Governor Amosun, was a major factor in the defeat of his anointed governorship candidate, Adekunle AbdulKadir Akinlade of the APM, at the polls.

Despite gross intimidation, people voted for the incumbent Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun with the belief that he would undo all the evils of Amosun, especially with his electioneering promise of giving the much needed succour to the staff of TASCE.

Shortly after the inauguration of Governor Abiodun, I was amazed to find the staff of the College still protesting the non-payment of salaries! My amazement turned into pure horror when I later learnt that five of the staff at the forefront of the protests were arrested and incarcerated!

My bewilderment grew in leaps and bounds when the Governor, in a media chat, actually acknowledged that he ordered the arrest of the five staff of the College to instill discipline and respect for constituted authorities, like former Oyo state Governor, Isiaka Ajumobi did to the students and staff of Ladoke Akintola University if Technology (LAUTECH), in the staff of the college. I was greatly disturbed by the Governor’s statements and position on the TASCE issue.

While I will not support anarchy in a system, it is simple logic that a man or woman that is being owed 64 months salaries cannot be expected to be rational. The fact is that the government actually created the state of anarchy through the non-payment of their salary arrears.

In the same vein, the best way to instill respect for constituted authorities is not through draconian actions but through consultations. Respect is different from fear. A government that toes the Machiavellian usage of fear, instead of love, to put the citizenry in a state of bondage will reap a harvest of pure and undiluted hatred.

With the aforesaid, I was greatly elated when I stumbled on an article in the Nigerian Tribune of 23rd October, 2019 titled ‘Dapo Abiodun: Silent restorer of education lost glory in Ogun’. TASCE featured prominently in the said article and the writer made us understand that the Governor had done the needful to return normalcy and sustainable peace to the college.

Given the fact that the staff of the college had stopped their protests, I had no cause to disbelieve the information. I immediately called one of my friends in the College to rejoice with him but to my utmost dismay, I was informed that the Governor has not paid a dime out of the accrued salary arrears and that since his inauguration on May 29, 2019, he has only paid half salaries for the months of June and July, 2019 despite the fact that the 1st semester examination has been held and that the 2nd semester is also about ending.

It was also learnt the Provost of the college, in person of Dr. Lukman Adeola Kiadese had been earmarked 50 million naira for the upcoming convocation of the college, which to be held on December 18, but amount to wastefulness and misplacement of priority, why don’t him expended the aforesaid money to pay the part of the money owing his staff of the college? the Provost also need to be cautioned in the way and manner handling the crisis of the college if he want normalcy to return to the institution and the government should also implement the report of the visitation panel, headed by Prof. Kamaldeen Balogun, by paying the Lecturers six months recommended in the report and call them to a round table and discuss modalities on how to pay the outstanding salaries’ arrears of the staff.

There is also heavy police presence in the college and anyone who dares to protest the inhumane situation in the college is either molested or queried. Why all these? At least, we are no more in military junta which also communicate through armed policemen or soldiers. But, I went back to check the name of the author of the article and I immediately understood my folly in taking the information contained therein on face value. He is no other person than Olamide Lawal, the political jobber who was fingered in the arrest of the five TASCE Lecturers.

If indeed the power strategy is the government’s plan to ensure peace in TASCE, then God should have mercy on all of us in Ogun State.

Balogun, wrote in from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.

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Awwal Garba AD: A Major Player in the Global Business Sector with Investments across Vast Terrains

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It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.” Denis Waitley

Taking a cue from Waitley, it is safe to say since the soul is the power and core of who one is, fulfillment is therefore the feeling of being happy and satisfied with one’s life because of interesting, useful, or important things embarked upon.

Alhaji Awwal Garba is a major player in the global oil and gas sector whose sense of fulfillment is succinctly summed up in the above analogy, as his life for a long time, has been dedicated to meaningful and oftentimes sacrificial commitments to his fatherland as well as to the lives of his countrymen.

With particular interest in Nigeria, Alhaji Garba has been discovering untapped resources within the oil sector upon which he has over the years, successfully built his chain of business interests, under the Magma Group, thereby immensely contributing to the economic growth and development of Nigeria.

With a humble mien, a virtue instilled by his upbringing, Alhaji Garba is a highly self-motivated person with an unbridled and a fervent desire to change the oil and gas sector narratives in ways that will benefit indigenous players and the Nigerian youths.

His words; “I was motivated into the sector by the desire to make a change, especially in the upstream sector of the industry where it is believed that only the oyibos (foreigners) hold sway therein.

“Of course, also in that direction would be the desire to contribute one’s quota to the national economy, in terms of creating jobs, which of course would help in giving the youths a sense of worth and direction.”

Early Years

Born into a family of affluence, Alhaji Garba may well be said to have grown up being fed with a silver spoon. His late father, a traditional title holder ‘Talban Kano’; a king maker, was also an astute businessman, with wide spread interests in commodity trading, exports and imports. It may not be out of place to say that Alhaji Garba cut his entrepreneurial teeth under the tutelage of his father.

However, with strict and disciplined parents, adherence to what is right was the only rule, and this helped in shaping his character and personality, which he himself admits was the greatest gift he received as a child.

“I thought my parents were being hard on us as children, but I have come to appreciate all those moments later in life. It actually made us humble, yet strong. This was the best gift I received as a child because it helped in shaping my character.”

The desire to discover himself spurred him to break away from the comfort and sureties that being under the umbrella of his father provided.

According to him, “I can say that I was born into privilege, but that did not stop me from finding my own niche. The most difficult thing was finding a balance by breaking away from my father’s umbrella in order to find myself. I call it the period of soul searching. It took time to find what makes me tick, and since then, it has become a passion to reach out to greater heights. More importantly, I have worked hard to create and maintain it. And I am still working hard.”

Education

Alhaji Garba had his early education in Kano, Nigeria and spent his early years in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. A Nigerian and British trained Economist of a rare kind, Alhaji Garba attended the Bayero University Kano, Nigeria and the City University, London, United Kingdom, tucking two degrees in his kitty from these institutions.

A Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Business Management UK, Alhaji Garba also acquired a Master’s Degree in Business Economics in the UK.  He has in practice been a major player in the oil and gas sector of the global business environment, with particular focus in Nigeria, since gaining his Master’s degree.

Entrepreneurship Drive

Awwal Garba is a man with very strong instincts which, interfaced with his realities have enabled him make life-changing decisions. One of the difficulties he had was deciding whether to go into private or public service. Looking back at the years of successful business entrepreneurship, his instincts to go for the former paid off handsomely, although from hindsight, it is clear to see that should he have chosen the latter, he still would have been profoundly successful.

A global oil and gas business mogul, Garba is an entrepreneur with an innate ability to sniff out business opportunities where many cannot; a rare disposition which has enabled him to excel in countless ventures and investments, especially within the oil and gas sector.

Garba’s major areas of focus cut across sectors like, Telecommunications, Power, Finance, Management Consulting, Marine, Oil and gas Exploration and Production (OEP), oil refinery and real estate development, among others.  He is a consummate professional with strong interpersonal and effective communication skills, integrity, tenacity and strength of character.

Awwal Garba’s core area of specialization in the oil and gas field is Exploration, with eight assets so far. He is building a 100 thousand barrel refinery in Akwa Ibom State at the moment, on a hundred hectare land, close to Exxon Mobil, while also negotiating with 3 marginal oilfields from oil mill 370 with Exxon Mobil.

“In the gas area of the sector, we have made proposals with respect to the Brass LNG, into which my partners and I are ready to commit $1bn. This would cut the issue of oil importation and also provide 300,000 jobs for skilled and unskilled workers in Akwa Ibom.”

Alhaji Garba’s companies include Magma Petroleum Investment Limited; Magma Exploration Production Limited, which is working on a JVU with Total Upstream, and also working with MPDC. His other companies  include  Magma Agro-Allied Limited; Magma Logistics Limited; Magma Gas and Power Spectrum Limited; Magma Pipe and Coating Limited, Rhone Petroleum Limited and H. Oil Limited, among others, all of which are aiding the economy of the country in terms of investment.

“We have Magma Exploration which is working on a JVU with Total Upstream, and also working with MPDC. We have Magma Gas and Power Spectrum working on acquiring the Brass LNG. It is a $1bn project, and already the funds are available.

“We have H-Oil Limited which has assets in Angola as well as South Sudan and Liberia, with offices in Paris and headquarters in Madrid, Spain.  Magma Logistics works with the Department of Petroleum Resources. We also have Magma Petroleum Investment in the downstream sector with our downstream partners, having facility in Amsterdam and distributing finished products all over the world.”

With this wide spectrum of business concerns, there are bound to be challenges. These however, are usually viewed by the astute businessman in the context of growth opportunities.

” The challenge of prospecting for and then drilling of oil is something we enjoy doing. On the exploration side especially, we want to expand and never get tired, that is why we are on the brink of acquiring more assets. We love the challenge. To get in there, prospect and drill the oil is something we just enjoy doing.

“Today, what kills the exploration business is greed. Many want to have everything and there’s no way you could do that when it comes to exploration.  We engage partners from all over the world and our logic is that ‘half bread is better than none’. We can give out an asset with 5% interest, an asset with 2%, it does not matter. What matters is that when you multiply the 2% x 10, you get 20%. This is our logic.”

Humble Mien

It is not really commonplace to find the virtue of humility in the lives of many of the affluent. The life of Awwal Garba is a marked exception because it is the way he was brought up. Whether it was his father or friends of his father, who included the MKO Abiola’s, the Maitama’s and the Babangida’s, they all pointed to the importance of the virtue and instilled that in him. He also admits that life itself also taught him about humility.

“Life has taught me to be absolutely humble. Life has taught me to be analytical as well as critical with myself in my everyday dealings. My heart will never deceive me into thinking I am anything different or special. Ego is a recipe for failure in life.

“I mean all you have to do is to look around you. The seven-year-old selling sachet water or Moi-Moi on the streets of Lagos in the early morning rush hour could have been you. He, also given your opportunity, could perform as good or even better. There are always two sides of a coin.”

    Patriotic Fervor, Leadership and Game Changer

Alhaji Awwal Garba is a de-tribalised Nigerian who sees his country as his constituency. Through his investments, he has been building bridges.

A unique vehicle with which he is stoking the embers of patriotism is ‘Game Changer’, a media established to ensure  that the Muhammadu Buhari administration continues to change the whole game; from Agriculture, Corruption to Healthcare and very importantly, to unite Nigerians and give them a sense of belonging.

He uses Ghana as a yardstick in buttressing the importance of patriotism. “You will be shocked to realise the level of their patriotism. A taxi driver always has the Ghanaian flag in his cab as with every household, like it was in America perhaps before the Trump era when American schools taught American history, the need to be patriotic and love for country. So patriotism is very important. Game Changer is here to bring awareness about patriotism.”

His friends call him the preacher and this is not just based on his knowledge and adherence to the tenets postulated by the Quran, but because he never stops preaching the gospel of unity among Nigerians, believing in the oneness of the country as a pathway to wealth creation in a more sustainable way, strength and endless possibilities. No wonder his house is always like a beehive or a Mecca of some kind.

Garba sees leadership as the ability to see beyond tomorrow and to commit to that vision totally, when those around you follow you with absolute commitment even when they do not see what you see.

“Those who do not remember history are certainly bound to be consumed by it. It has happened in many countries before. The Asian tigers, from Singapore to Malaysia, Thailand to China, they have all gone through what we are going through. Mao Zedong closed up China for 50 years before opening up.  America’s democracy took over 200 years to get to where they are now. Ours is only 50+ and with such multi ethnic groups, patience is the key.”

Philanthropy and Titles

Awwal Garba is a man with a heart of gold, compassionate, kind and in tune with his people. He believes in creating high-points in his life each day and one of those is the opportunity to make someone happy.

“There are just countless moments with that, but what you can do is to create one every day. Most importantly, put a smile on someone’s face and the picture stays with you permanently.”

It is not surprising then that he has been honored with the prestigious traditional titles of ‘Galadima Talban’, and ‘Talban Dan Hausa Daura’.

Family

Alhaji Awwal Garba maintains a closely knit family even as a very busy person, understanding the importance of family. Despite his busy schedule, which has shrunken some social activities, he still finds time to spend with his family.

“The pressure of work increased with growth, so whatever time I can squeeze out now for personal issues, I spend it with my family. We take the children to game parks when they are on holidays and try to have a feel of their minds by coming down to their level and appreciating them. My biggest fear is not being able to meet up with the expectations of my family and my loved ones.”

Even though Awwal Garba a fulfilled man, he believes in breaking new grounds as long as life permits him.

“I feel fulfilled in life, all the time. Yet, life itself is like sweet nectar from the most beautiful thorny fruit bearing tree. Once you taste it, you cannot but go back for another bite. I am always setting new goals to conquer.”

As Eleanor Roosevelt aptly puts it, “Happiness is not a goal. It’s a by-product of a life well lived.”

It is from that standpoint that Alhaji Awwal Garba says,” I believe in what life has dished out my way and believe me when I say if I have to do it all over again, I would not change a thing.”

Indeed, there must be some unique feeling that comes with blazing trails and impacting lives.

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Professor Charles Dokubo and the Stench of the Presidential Amnesty Programme

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“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

                                                      –Chinua Achebe

The concept of leadership is universal, cutting across several boundaries. Leadership  is an important ingredient in the activities of government; the determining factor between success and failure in a society.

Because of its infinitely defining nature therefore, Leadership is serious business and essentially demands an innate ability to foresee, a commitment and dedication to serve, the selflessness to be equitable and honesty to be accountable, all of which underpin the operative words of Chinua Achebe’s quote above in ‘unwillingness or inability of leaders to rise to the responsibility’, buttressing yet that being in a position of leadership is not in itself an end, but only a means to an end.

The Niger Delta region in Nigeria, adjudged the world’s largest wetland, representing over 90% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings has for as long as time been characterized by ecological squalor, high degree of unemployment, teeming youth restlessness, developmentally barren communities, and a heavy air of hopelessness, all of which have over the years been augmented by poor leadership both in the region and at the federal level.

This situation ignited appalling bloodbath, sabotaging of oil installations, kidnapping,   piracy, oil  bunkering,  guerrilla attacks on the security agents and fierce militancy which held the region spellbound for many years, causing Nigeria’s oil production at a time to drop to as low as about 900,000barrels per day from 2.3  million bpd, costing the nation about N8.7 billion daily. This was critical to the economy for a country that over 90% of its income derives from crude, with over 200 million in population.

The amnesty programme, introduced by late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2009 has since proven to be a recipe for peace in the hitherto restive region, but that peace which paved the way for oil companies to resume normal business activities and provided the necessary boost to the oil-reliant Nigerian economy is fast becoming fragile given the documented cases of corruption in the leadership of the programme.

As it turned out, most of the militants were jobless youths, driven by their conditions into living dangerously in the creeks. The three phases of the amnesty programme being Disarmament Programme, Demobilization Programme and Reintegration Programme were thus conceieved to ultimately reintegrate these militants back into society and so they were placed on monthly stipends, made to learn trades while others secured university admissions to study in  Nigeria and abroad.

It is this reintegration phase that to a large extent shows the success or failure of the amnesty programme, and until the present regime headed by Professor Charles Dokubo, the programme seemed well on course.

Sidelining the mandate for which the Amnesty Programme was established, the leadership of the programme under leadership of Dokubo is being rampantly abused.

The programme is now obviously derailed given the festering corruption it has been caught up in and it would seem Professor Charles Dokubo does not have a good understanding of the dynamics of the program, the region or is simply too pre-occupied with inordinate interests to give a hoot.

It is sad indeed that even with the capacity of the programme to transform the economy of the region and Nigeria’s at large, its implementation has been compromised on  the platter of mediocrity and self- aggrandizement.

Several allegations of mismanagement and embezzlement of money allocated to the Presidential Amnesty Programme have been made against the office.

Thousands of beneficiaries whose names made the original list do not receive payments anymore as their names have been reportedly swapped for ghost names, while beneficiaries who await calls for their various techno-vocational training have been left in limbo.

Appearing too elitist to identify with the common people of the region whose demands have remained the same from the onset, Dokubo does not engage with the core people behind the struggle in the region as reports have it that since he was appointed to head the programme, he has never visited any state, clan or kingdom in the Niger Delta, which sounds absurd, given the place of assuring peace, development and security which are the bedrock of the amnesty programme.

Dokubo lacks the knowledge or ability to deal with the grassroots, the true ex-agitators and prefers dealing with the white-collar ivy leaguers with little knowledge of the terrain and ghost ex-agitators, thereby mortgaging the essence of the programme.

At the Kaiama Amnesty Centre, mismanagement and vandalisation of equipment worth billions of Naira in the starter Pack Warehouse at the centre is one of the sad reminders of Dokubo’s incompetence.

In like manner, the Ondo State VTC commissioned several months ago with equipment at the center worth billions of naira, lies rotting away with none ever sent there for training, while stupendous sums of money are constantly awarded for training.

There has been reports of the award of fictitious contracts going on at the agency designed to siphon money from the system; as payments are often made for supplies never delivered; with contracts sold and awarded for projects that never served the purpose of the programme.

Immorality has also reportedly gained prime place in the regime of the prof by indecent relationships with female staff and female contractors while contractors now bring women to get contracts.

Funds meant for ex- agitators’ training are wantonly looted to the extent that about nine thousand ex field agitators who still await call to be fully engaged by the government are yet to be recognized and carried along by Prof. Dokubo’s team.

What’s more, the non-payment of tuition fees of students sponsored under the amnesty programme in tertiary institutions has resulted in these students being asked to withdraw, which might well be the summit of the ignominious charade by the amnesty office.

The office of the programme is reported to currently be in debt of over 20billion Naira and still accumulating. This is clearly a pointer to leadership failure, looting and mismanagement of resources in the amnesty agency.

Chicanery in government offices is not new in Nigeria, but after holding sway for so long, the coming in of President Buhari with his gospel of anti-corruption elicited huge breaths of relief from Nigerians who have been at the receiving end of the cankerworm.

With these grave cases of corruption in the leadership of the amnesty programme of the federal government, it can  be reasonably expected that the president will be seen to take a decisive action on the matter, since the plan of the House of Representatives to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations is yet to see the light of the day for reasons not clear.

Dokubo himself alluded to the importance of working in close relationship with leaders in the region when he newly came in, but that spirit and resolve seem to have been vitiated by corruption.

According to his inaugural speech; “I have come to the conclusion that the Amnesty Programme would be better managed and better results achieved, if the managers of the Programme work very closely with leaders in the Niger Delta. In a nutshell, as the Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, I intend to work very closely with you leaders in the region and other key stakeholders of the Amnesty Program.”

He may also unwittingly or subtly have alluded to the fact that there would be incidences of corruption when he admitted he will make mistakes.

“I am determined to radically improve on what I met on ground at the Amnesty Office. I am not perfect. I am most likely going to make mistakes along the line, especially given the peculiar nature of the Amnesty Programme.” And he did.

It is obvious that the leadership of the presidential amnesty programme has woefully failed in carrying out its mandate, and the situation demands that the government wades in urgently and put an end to the embarrassing reports of thievery and debauchery emanating from the office.

No time in the history of the programme have there been stentorian cries for the removal of its boss, as in the instant case with Dokubo, whose appointment is beginning to raise eyebrows, questioning the criteria with which he was appointed.

The Pan Niger Delta Youth Leadership (PANDLEAF) believes that leadership failure is the nucleus of the problems confronting the Niger Delta region and according to its leader, Mr. Akinawa, “We can’t fold hands as youth and expect change. The time for us to take action is now and that is the intent of PANDLEAF; to awaken the youths of the Niger Delta for common good where leaders have failed.”

Lending its voice to the rot in the amnesty programme is the Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-agitators under the auspices of Creek Dragons who have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently remove the current coordinator of the programme, Prof. Charles Quaker Dokubo.

The former creek warlords in a statement released to the press maintained that Prof. Dokubo is alien to the Niger Delta struggle for emancipation, accusing him of incompetence and alleged that the entire amnesty program has become a caricature, while stressing that his removal from office will better the amnesty program in moving forward and achieving its aims and objectives.

For that matter, the office of the presidential amnesty programme is one the president should of necessity be very much interested in, as the stench of rot wafting from the office across the region it is meant to serve is becoming intolerable and stands at variance with the vision and resolve of Mr. President as it concerns uprightness and accountability in public offices.

The kind of person needed to man the affairs of the office is one well vested with knowledge about the core issues of the region and objectives of the programme as drawn by the federal government. A person who commands the respect of leaders in the region as well as the confidence of the ex-agitators. This crop of people exists but have seemingly been constantly sidelined because of the politics involved in the whole thing.

Apparently, the Profeessor may have gotten this far by his dis-ingenuity and it is not a hidden fact that he has also been expending colossal amounts of money to secure his being retained as head of the amnesty programme, but things cannot keep on going the way they are with different results expected.

Stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians are now champing at the bit for a quick and worthy change of leadership in the office of the presidential amnesty programme.

Otherwise the fragile peace that has so far been enjoyed in the once violent region may simply crumble.

Manny Ita, a Public Affairs Commentator writes from Bayelsa.

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