Special Report On The Presidential Amnesty Programme
…as Buhari sacks coordinator of Presidential Amnesty Programme
President Muhammadu Buhari, Thursday, terminated the appointment of Prof. Charles Dokubo as coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
The President appointed Col. Milland Dikio (rtd.) as the interim administrator of the programme.
Late President Musa Yar Adua instituted the amnesty programme in June 2009 to end the disruptive protests in the oil‐producing Niger Delta. Between 2006 and 2009, it was estimated that crude oil production losses exceeded 650,000 barrels per day, dramatically reducing government revenue.
The Presidential Amnesty Programme provided militants a state pardon, educational training and a monthly stipend in exchange for the surrender of weapons. Analysts estimate that the Presidential Amnesty Programme increased the oil output in the Niger Delta by about 40% above the level that would have been achieved in the absence of the policy.
The Presidential Amnesty Programme was a local form of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR). This policy was devised by the federal government’s technical committee to respond to the disruptive protests in the Niger Delta, to restore peace.
Amnesty was offered in all states in the Niger Delta; however, it specifically targeted the militants from the core Niger Delta states of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers.
The militants were asked to surrender their weapons in exchange for a full state pardon, vocational or educational training funded by the government, and a monthly stipend of N65,000 (approximately USD $428 at the time).
According to a report on the Assessment of the Programme, published last Tuesday, by Nextier Security, Peace and Development (SPD), despite its failings and widespread inefficiencies, Nigeria’s Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), gulped N500 billion from 2009 to 2020.
According to the report, the amnesty project had failed to achieve its purpose for establishment, which is the sustainable human and infrastructural development of the Niger Delta. It said that the amnesty programme had been marred by corruption, lack of transparency and elite capture.
The programme had continued to enrich a few individuals within the Niger Delta region and the country, especially politicians. “It is estimated that the programme has gulped more than N500 billion, from 2009 till date. From its inception to 2014, N234 billion was estimated to have been expended on the programme.
“With a boost to its yearly budget from N20 billion to N65 billion in 2017, its yearly budget increased by N30 billion. While the programme gifted the monthly stipends to lower cadre ex-militants, it provided multi-dollar pipeline security surveillance contracts to ex-militant generals and other forms of contracts to other elite members of the society.
“The programme has continued to enrich a selected few within the region and in the country while the majority of people from local oil communities are marginalized or excluded,” the report said. The report concluded that Presidential Amnesty Programme is a burden on the federal budget, stressing that it is no longer sustainable.
The report said: “With a monthly allocation of N5.5 billion, about N2.3 billion of which goes into payment of school fees and N65, 000 monthly stipends to beneficiaries of the programme and the rest of the allocation on contracts and office running costs, the programme has not delivered on one of its major objectives, which is getting ex-agitators into regular paid employment.”
“It has continued to pay many of them even after their training, showing that the programme’s design may be fundamentally flawed and may not have been designed to achieve its objectives.”
The Presidential Amnesty Program was designed as a five-year programme which ought to run from 2010 to 2015. However, the programme is now in its 10th year and observers think it had become a bureaucratic institution rather than an intervention programme designed to solve a specific problem.
“It has become more of a contract awarding government department, with 58% of its monthly allocation going into the running of the office and contracts, while 42% is for payment of training and school fees as well as the N65, 000 stipends,” the Nextier report said.
President Buhari had suspended Dokubo in February over allegations of financial misconduct and mismanagement in the Amnesty Programme. The presidency explained that the National Security Adviser (NSA) had set up a Caretaker Committee to look into the activities of the programme, on the directive of President Buhari.
“Part of the Committee’s task is to ensure that allocated resources are properly utilized in consonance with government’s objective of alleviating problems in the Niger Delta region, and stamping out corruption in the Amnesty Programme.
“Consequently, the NSA recommended to Mr President that the Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, Professor Charles Quaker Dokubo be suspended, a recommendation that has been approved and which takes immediate effect.
“The President has also directed that the Caretaker Committee set up to review the programme should oversee the running of the programme henceforth, with a view to ensuring that government objectives are achieved.”
Dokubo had succeeded Paul Boroh, who was also removed by the president in 2018, following allegations of corruption. Consequently, Buhari appointed Dikio (rtd) as Interim Administrator of the Amnesty Programme with effect from August 21, 2020.
President Buhari appreciated the services of Prof. Dokubo to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and wished him the best in his future endeavours, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said.
Addressing the issue of transition, the Nextier report stated that the sacking of the incumbent PAP Coordinator, Professor Charles Dokubo, has thrown the region into an avoidable jostle for power. “This power tussle often pitches some communities in the region against each other over who produces the next head of the agency and if it does not end well, the transition process could be adversely impacted.
“The transition process would provide the best opportunity for adopting a more sustainable leadership structure for the agency, if the transition is not well thought through, well-handed and widely accepted, it might result in the security situation in the region becoming worse than before the Amnesty was proclaimed.”
The Amnesty Programme has been described as a burden on the federal budget, highly expensive to maintain and an avenue for corrupt enrichment for a few individuals.
The Nextier report advocated a transition strategy away from the PAP as it is currently constituted, to another form of mechanism that could foster peace and security. Also, it is expected to address the issue of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta, avoiding the challenges that had marred the programme over the years.
The report disclosed that the amnesty project had failed to achieve its purpose for establishment, which is the sustainable human and infrastructural development of the Niger Delta.
It added that since inception, the amnesty programme had been marred by corruption, lack of transparency and elite capture, and had continued to enrich a few individuals within the Niger Delta region and the country.
It said, “From its inception to 2014, N234 billion was estimated to have been expended on the programme. With a boost to its yearly budget from N20 billion to N65 billion in 2017, its yearly budget increased by N30 billion.
“While the programme gifted the monthly stipends to lower cadre ex-militants, it provided multi-dollar pipeline security surveillance contracts to ex-militant generals and other forms of contracts to other elite members of the society.
The programme has continued to enrich a selected few within the region and in the country while the majority of people from local oil communities are marginalized or excluded.”
By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Col. Milland Dikio (rtd.) as the interim administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
According to a report on the Assessment of the Programme published by Nextier Security, Peace and Development (SPD), despite its failings and widespread inefficiencies, Nigeria’s Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), gulped N500 billion from 2009 to 2020.