The multi-billion naira Vocational Training Centre in Boro Town, Kaima, Bayelsa State, built by the Presidential Amnesty Programme, was on February 14, 2019, vandalised and looted by the people it was meant to serve.
Built by PAP office to tackle the main challenges in transforming non-skilled ex-militants to a technically skilled workforce, the centre was to be formally opened penultimate week before the vandalism, which left many residents of the state in shock.
Eyewitnesses said the looting started when the residents noticed that some of the pieces of equipment in the building were being moved elsewhere in trucks to unknown destinations by officials of the amnesty office, prompting a revolt and the consequent invasion of the facility.
Another source said the rumour around the town was that the pieces of equipment were to be given to supporters of a particular political party, a development that made the people to invade the premises.
It was gathered that those, who came late in the night after the daylight invasion, were said to have removed toilet seats inside the hostels, window frames, doors and other valuables.
Also carted away in broad daylight were starter packs like welding machines, fridges, generators and technical equipment, which were procured to help beneficiaries become self-employed and independent after undergoing training.
Southern City News learnt that the loot spree went on, even as the PAP officials, security men and residents looked on.
An eyewitness, Mr Kennedy Suoye, stated, “The looting commenced on February 14, 2019, and lasted for three days, while security personnel posted to the area to bring the situation under control joined in the looting spree.
“The centre was earmarked for the official opening by President Muhammadu Buhari during his campaign tour to Bayelsa State. But the President could not make it there for the opening. Some miscreants took advantage of the situation and broke into the place and started the looting.”
Also speaking on the development, environmental activist and Secretary of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Morris Alogoa, lamented the level of irresponsibility displayed by the people and even the government.
He said, “Waking up in the morning to hear that that the fully-equipped Presidential Amnesty Programme training centre situated in Boro Town became the latest victim of looting spree was not only shocking, but caused one to shudder.
“Like an organised crime, the action of those who allegedly came from Delta and Rivers states to join in what appears to be a successful orgy of looting is still like magic to some of us as the crime happened in broad daylight and also in the night for two days without any arrest, even though men in military uniform were in the same facility being vandalised.”
The state Commissioner for Youths, Udengs Eradiri, while expressing shock at the development, said such an incident had not happened before at the amnesty office.
He said, “I read in the newspapers and on social media about the embarrassing incident that happened in Kaima, which led to widespread looting of amnesty equipment kept in Kaima.
“I was not officially informed as the commissioner for youths. I am basing my assessment on hearsay, because it is a federal institution. We are constrained to go and find out what happened.
“How on earth should they change the initiators of the project and bring somebody who has no affinity with the project to head the looting spree? But the local and state governments should have intervened.”