A presidential aide has warned of “dire consequences” in the oil rich Niger Delta should President Goodluck Jonathan fail to secure a fresh term in 2015.
In a startling remark to U.S. officials in Washington on Thursday, Special Adviser to the president on Niger Delta, and chairman, presidential amnesty programme, Kingsley Kuku, said current relative peace in the Niger Delta is tied to the continued stay in office of Mr. Jonathan, and strongly urged the American government to back his presidency.
Mr. Kuku, who spoke at a session with officials of the U.S. State Department led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (Bureau of African Affairs), Donald Teitelbaum, told the Americans that only Mr. Jonathan can guarantee peace in the restive region and hence, the compelling need to persuade him to seek re-election in 2015.
“It is true that the presidential amnesty programme has engendered peace, safety and security in the sensitive and strategic Niger Delta. Permit me to add that the peace that currently prevails in the zone is largely because Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who is from that same place, is the President of Nigeria. That is the truth.
“It is only a Jonathan presidency that can guarantee continued peace and energy security in the Niger Delta,” Mr. Kuku said.
The presidential aide said the consequences would be dire if the U.S. gets distracted by the activities of terror cells in parts of northern Nigeria, and takes its attention off the Niger Delta.
“Terrorism is a global phenomenon. President Jonathan inherited the situation in northern Nigeria and he has adopted a multifaceted approach to tackle this unfortunate situation. So far, profound results are being achieved,” he said. “But I insist that this must not distract the U.S. and the international community from giving the Niger Delta region of Nigeria the requisite attention.”
“I hope the U.S. is aware that with peace and stability in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s economy will remain buoyant enough to empower the Federal Government to contend with terrorism and other forms of insecurity in other parts of the country.
“However if we allow anything to hurt the peace in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s economy will be endangered and energy security in Nigeria and even America will not be guaranteed. The attention and interest of the U.S. in Nigeria must remain the stability of the Niger Delta and the easiest way to ensure this is to encourage President Jonathan to complete an eight-year term,” he said.
Mr. Kuku, who has pushed for talks with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, after the group warned of restarting fighting in the region, told the session that the Niger Delta continues to yearn for attention and development.
“In spite of the peace that prevails in the Niger Delta now, the issues that led to militancy in the first place are yet to be properly addressed. The issues of development, greater say in the control of the resource that comes from the place, issues of environmental remediation, youth unemployment among others are still there,” he said.
“However, the agitators are prepared to patiently await development as long as one of their own, Dr. Jonathan remains the President, and I think this is one thing the American government should reflect seriously on.”
In response, Mr. Teitelbaum acknowledged his country was worried about the activities of terror cells in northern Nigeria, but said the U.S remains committed to deepening of the peace in the Niger Delta.
He said that the U.S. views the Niger Delta amnesty program as a huge success, and pledged that the State Department will brief other organs of the U.S. Government on possible ways of offering technical support to the amnesty program.
At a separate meeting with members of the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) in Washington DC on Thursday, Mr. Kuku challenged investors, particularly Americans, to leverage on the relative peace that the amnesty program has engendered in the Niger Delta to invest in the region.
He told the members that following the proclamation and the acceptance of amnesty by former agitators in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s economy witnessed astronomical growth as crude oil production, which had declined to as low as 700,000 barrels per day in the first quarter of 2009, has been rising steadily and currently stands about 2.6 million barrels per day.
Mr. Kuku however warned that unless the thousands of youths being offered skills and vocational training by the Amnesty Office become gainfully employed, peace may once again elude the Niger Delta.
“We were given the mandate to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate these ex-agitators. We are doing just that and peace has returned to the Niger Delta as several of the ex-agitators are now very busy in schools and vocational centers across the world. But what becomes of them after their training is our biggest challenge now. On our part, we have done our best but we now need the practical support of all persons and nations who truly seek and want peace in the Niger Delta, to join efforts to create employment opportunities for our youths,” Mr. Kuku told the American investors.
The CCA President and Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Hayes, said the Council was irrevocably committed to attracting American investors to Africa.