… advocates dialogue with militants
Chris Steven, Abuja
Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki on Saturday said the Senate will support any proposal from the Executive to increase the fund slated for the amnesty programme in the 2016 Appropriation Act.
Saraki who was speaking to journalists at the Presidential Villa after the Change of Guards ceremony to mark the nation’s 56th Independence anniversary said any plan by the Executive to calm the frayed nerves in the Niger Delta and increase oil production so as to earn more money for the country to get out of the current economic recession will enjoy the support of the National Assembly.
He reiterated the position of the Senate in its 20 point-solution to the economic recession billed to be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari that government should engage in constructive dialogue with the militants who are making oil production difficult.
“Any positive move to restore peace in the restive Niger Delta region as well as increase the nation’s ability to earn more money at this point will enjoy the support of the Senate. We need to earn more foreign exchange and inject more money into the system through the funding of development projects to reflate our economy and put more people to work”, Saraki said.
The Senate had in its recommendations also asked the President Buhari to appoint a Special Adviser that would lead the government engagement team in dialogue with the aggrieved Niger Delta Militants to ensure the protection of Nigeria’s oil and gas assets.
In the 20-point solution the Senate stated: “This team should include Senators from the zone, and should oversee and advice on all the interventions and negotiations that are necessary to bring peace and stability to the Region”.
It tasked the Federal Government to ensure that all cases of unwholesome practices in the export of crude oil are vigorously pursued and dealt with decisively. It further mandates the Federal Government to ensure that all cases involving unaccounted oil exports are pursued with vigour and culprits brought to book.
According to the Ad-hoc committee set up by the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly to harmonize the two-day debate by members on the economic crisis, it urged the Federal Government to among other things, “engage in meaningful and inclusive dialogue with the aggrieved Niger Deltans to avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region, ensure protection of the Nigeria oil pipelines and the resultant increase in oil production, sales, and economic boost”.
The report of the ad-hoc committee stated that the engagement of the militants in dialogue is necessary because of the falling oil revenue from an average of about $110 in 2014 to $30 in January, 2016 and $46 today.
Accordingly, the report said, “this fall in revenue was further exacerbated by the vandalization of the nation’s oil asset in the Niger Delta region that nearly halved the nation’s oil production and export from 2.1 million barrels per day to just about 1 million barrels per day.
“All this was happening in the absence of any saving from the high oil prices of the last decade that saw the nation’s foreign exchange reserves plummeting from more than $60 billion dollars in 2007 to about $24 billion.”
In recommending dialogue, the Senate said that it is necessary, “In order to shore up our foreign reserves, Government should explore every avenue to restore the oil production target of 2.2 million barrels per day.
“Peaceful means should be immediately crafted and adopted to stop the vandalization of petroleum and gas assets in the Niger Delta Region. Government must engage in meaningful and inclusive dialogue with the aggrieved Niger Delta Militants to avoid an escalation of the unrest in the region and ensure protection of our Nation’s oil and gas assets to facilitate increase in oil production and boost revenue there from”, it stated.