Season of amnesty

Season of amnesty
By Reuben Abati
 
"NIGERIA has run out of crude oil supply. All the country's refineries have been shut down."
 
"Hallelu-yah somebody. I have always said it that one of these days, all the oil wells will dry up and Nigeria will have to start thinking of alternative means of generating revenue. Good. Fantastic."
 
"You are missing the point. It is not as if there is no oil anymore under the soil. NNPC and all the Joint Venture Partners can no longer operate in the Niger Delta because the militant youths will not allow them"
 
"You mean the boys have finally found the thing that has been hiding in the pipeline?"
 
"What has something hiding inside pipelines got to do with this?"
 
"I thought every Nigerian government always told the people of the Niger Delta that development was in the pipeline. And the people never saw any development. Now, angry youths from the area have burst the pipeline open."
 
"This is a serious matter, not something to joke about"
 
"I know. But where is the Joint Task Force? You mean the Joint Task Force cannot protect the pipelines and the oil wells?"
 
"It is a serious matter. The Group Managing Director of NNPC says that in the next 15 days, NNPC will run out of crude for domestic consumption".
 
"What is he talking about? Was NNPC supplying crude oil for domestic consumption and if it did, has the percentage not always been negligible? And what refineries are they closing down, if I may ask? Those refineries have not worked for a long time anyway."
 
"Yes. I wondered too."
 
"When the Federal Government cancelled the sale of the Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries to local investors, it gave the impression that it had an alternative plan for those refineries. Now what has happened? The two refineries are of no use. Investor confidence in the economy has been further eroded."
 
"You know what this means? In another two weeks, fuel queues will be back on the streets of Nigeria. Oil marketers will be in a better position to further blackmail all of us."
 
"No regular electricity supply. No crude oil. The country is failing."
 
"Makes me angry and frustrated."
 
"No, not yet."
 
"When the Federal Government launched the offensive on the Niger Delta militants a few weeks ago, it obviously did not think through its strategy properly. Technically, I will say the boys of the Delta have defeated the Nigerian government."
 
"I am a patriot. I won't say so. I refuse to support any form of criminality."
 
"Fine. You are entitled to your own opinion. But can't you see that the Federal Government is already on its knees, begging the boys?"
 
"No. Government cannot beg anybody. Do you know what is called government?"
 
"I know one Ijaw militant called Government."
 
"There you go again"
 
"So what do you make of government's offer of amnesty to the militants?"
 
"I think it is a way of making peace. Look at it. Asari Dokubo has been released".
 
"Yes. Why don't they make him a Special Adviser to Government on Niger Delta Affairs. And Ateke Tom can be appointed a Minister for Special Duties."
 
"The Federal Government is coming up with a package."
 
"Look, I think the Federal Government is overwhelmed. President Yar'Adua must be wondering why it has to be his lot to deal with this kind of crisis."
 
"That Asari Dokubo is not even grateful. He says he doesn't need any Presidential pardon. Only convicts are pardoned."
 
"I hear the Federal Government is offering a 60-day amnesty. But I ask: and then what? The militants have suddenly realized powerful they are. They know. That is why Dagogo, Boyloaf, and Soboma George insist that they are not interested in any discussions with the Federal Government."
 
" I want to be optimistic. I am a patriot."
 
"You know what will happen?"
 
"No."
 
"I understand the boys are being offered money. N50 billion. They will simply collect the money and continue with business as usual. And government will offer them more money. As far as they are concerned, it is their money and the people of the Niger Delta want reparation. Well, I think I am a militant too. I know what to do."
 
"Government will bomb the hell out of them"
 
"As they did in Gbaramatu not so? Are you aware that the people of Gbaramatu haven taken the Federal Government to court, over the attack on their villages recently? They have a good case. So, what will government do, pay the people of Gbaramatu compensation too?"
 
"I don't like the idea of some people holding the entire country to ransom. Those boys should emulate General Africa who has agreed to lay down arms"
 
"What you like or don't like no longer matters?
 
"Well, President Yar'Adua has said all the militants should lay down their arms and ammunitions. They should also renounce militancy and sign forms which will be provided by the Federal Government, and after that, they will be entitled to conditional pardon."
 
"Oh my God. Eh, eh eh. My God. You people can make someone laugh. The Federal Government sounds as if it is talking to school boys. Now I know what Asari Dokubo meant when he said that it is the Nigerian government that needs amnesty."
 
"You keep dismissing everything. So what is your solution to the problem?"
 
"The Niger Delta question".
 
"What about it? It is easy to talk about the Niger Delta question. What is the answer?"
 
"In fact that is the question".
 
"There is no point discussing this subject with you. People like you should also sign the amnesty form: for your lack of patriotism, you need Presidential pardon".
 
"I think someone in the Presidency has just seen that word in his dream. It must have appeared like a handwriting on the wall."
 
"What do you mean?"
 
"The President is also granting state pardon to General Oladipo Diya and 67 others who were convicted for an alleged coup against the Abacha government in 1995 and 1997."
 
"And what do you have against that?"
 
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. President Obasanjo should have done it. And I am happy for my friends who are involved. I hear they will all be paid some money too. But will the Federal Government also grant state pardon to the Ogoni Nine?"
 
"There was no reference to the Ogoni Nine."
 
"Why not?"
 
"I can't answer that question."
 
"Okay, I also want to lay down arms. Can you ask your people in Abuja to get me the renunciation forms? And don't forget my own share of the N50 billion that has been budgeted for us"
 
"Ole. You are not a militant?"
 
"Okay, what was that nonsense again about the Federal Government stopping the award of new contracts by its ministries and agencies? It is like saying government is going on a brief holiday. We don't agree. We no go gree. Tell me, how do you tell who is a militant and who is not? What is the tribal mark of a militant? "
 
"Government wants to take stock of what it has done so far, to know the status of its existing contracts."
 
"We all know the state of FG contracts. You don't need to set up a committee to determine that. There is no power supply across the country. Both academic and non-academic staff of government-owned universities in the country are on strike. SSANU is also getting ready to go on strike. Even the Joint Venture contracts in the extractive industry are problematic. And you are still talking about stock-taking?"
 
"What government wants to do is to review contracts, to see why certain contracts are failing?"
 
"Okay. Now I get your drift. But let them start by finding out who got what contract and why and how, the cost of the contract, all the variations imposed, actual cost of performance if any, and whether or not somebody collected ten per cent kickback upfront. And of course anybody that is caught out, I advise must not be granted presidential amnesty. Straight to Kirikiri. "
 
"EFCC first."
 
"Ha. They will go and get court injunction and that will be the end of it."
 
"By the way, I have been thinking of drawing your attention to something important. You eat rice a lot and it is better..."
 
"Killer rice? LL62 from Asia. I read the story too. I know where you are going"
 
"Well, thank God."
 
"But are you surprised? Nigeria is a dumping ground for all kinds of killer goods and items from all parts of the world. When a country is over-dependent on foreign imports and it has no respect for standards and best practices, it will invariably open its doors to all kinds of killer items. What haven't we seen in this land? Toxic waste at Koko. Killer refrigerators at Alaba market. Killer tyres. Killer vehicles. Even killer prostitutes from India. You remember what those killer prostitutes did for Nigeria? I have not forgotten."
 
"You like to exaggerate everything. The rice actually did not kill anybody. People only complained that it smelled and tasted awful. But it is curious the same consignment of rice that was rejected in Sierra Leone, found its way to Nigerian markets in Kaduna, Sokoto and parts of the North."
 
"Simple. NAFDAC has slept off. Even if NAFDAC were to seize the bags of killer rice in the country, some people will still insist on eating it. Some Nigerians have killer stomachs. Any dangerous object that goes in there is ruthlessly demolished. Hunger na bad thing o."
 
"I am going to stay off rice for a while."
 
"You too dey fear. Chop rice for your stomach."
 
"I hear there is also adulterated palm oil in the market."
 
"The thing about Nigeria is that there is too many killers around. Take Customs."
 
"And what has Customs got to do with this?"
 
"The Customs authorities are planning to expel all their staff who obtained university degrees while still in service in the past seven years. The management says it is not interested in its workers going to school to acquire additional qualifications. Even some of the workers who are currently in institutions of higher learning have been told to start packing their things."
 
"I don't believe this. It is anti-knowledge, and anti-progress. "
 
"There is a circular to that effect. It is not a hidden exercise. And the funny thing is that all the affected persons were originally granted permission to proceed on study leave without pay. The original letter has now been withdrawn and all the persons are to proceed on immediate retirement."
 
"Amazing."
 
"How can anyone lay down arms in the face of these endless provocations. In fact, it is the Federal Government that should be begging for amnesty: for putting us in darkness, for mismanaging our refineries, and for abusing our rights."
 
"Just be careful."

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