Former militants from the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, numbering 198, on Thursday graduated from the Second Amnesty Training Program in Accra.
The program, a collaboration between the governments of Ghana and Nigeria, the National Vocational Training Institute of Ghana and Learning Resources Nigeria Ltd, as well as Amnesty Nigeria, forms part of efforts by the Nigerian government, to re-integrate former militants in the Niger-Delta Region of Nigeria into the society.
Mr. Kingsly Kuku, Special Advisor to the Nigerian President on the Niger Delta Affairs, who attended the ceremony in Accra, said one of the biggest problems in Nigeria now, was the effective re-integration of Niger-Delta youth, who were once combatants.
“We are dealing with over 26,000 youths who were once combatants, and it is the duty of the Nigerian government to ensure that they are well catered for,” he said.
He expressed appreciation to the Government of Ghana for assisting with the re-integration programme, adding that it was a reflection of the mutually rewarding as well as cordial relations between the two countries.
Mr. Kuku told the graduates that whilst the Nigerian government would assist them to take off with their newly learnt trades, they should make it a point to be industrious and create opportunities on their own.
“We would assist you set up, register your businesses and be of assistance to you in every way possible. This is what we owe you and we are going to do this for you as your government.”
Mr. William .K. Aboa, Minister of the Interior said in a statement read for him Mr. Samuel Amankah that it was refreshing the militants had eventually laid down their arms and learnt some trade.
“Whilst Ghana is happy to be part of this process of helping to reintegrate the combatants back into the society, we have learnt that nothing can replace peace and tranquility in human existence.”
He said that was the essence of the democratic path being chartered by “our countries”.
Mr. Aboa said having chosen the path of peace, “it means you have decided to partner your government to develop your country Nigeria, for your generation and subsequent ones”.
He continued, “The path is not all that rosy, but it is the best option available which ensures, that everyone has some space to be part of the process of nation building”.
Mr. Steven Amponsah, Executive Director of the National Vocational Training institute (NVTI), said challenges posed by government policies as well as global economic conditions, called for the youth to look beyond academic qualifications for financial empowerment.
He said in our sub-region, graduates were annually pushed into the “already saturated labour market, thus leaving thousands roaming the streets, looking for non-existent white collar jobs, while others indulge in crime”.
Mr. Amponsah said vocational training could alleviate poverty, reduce unemployment and enhance wealth creation.
“The NVTI commends the Nigerian government on the path it has taken, and is very proud to be associated with it,” he said.
Kidnappings, killings and attacks on oil fields and workers, have characterized acts of militants within the oil-rich Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.
The graduates learnt vocations in welding and fabrication, auto mechanics, general electrical and pipe-fitting.
The chief claim of the militants is that they are fighting for equal rights in the proceeds from the oil fields within the region.
In the words of Mr. Kuku, Niger Delta agitation in 2007, led to a reduction in oil production within the region, which fell from 2000,000 barrels a day to 700,000 barrels a day. GNA