By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The Presidential Amnesty Programme for Niger Delta militants initiated in 2009 by late President Umaru Yar’Adua will end in the next two years.
The Coordinator and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Brigadier- General Paul Boro (retd), disclosed this at an interactive session with the media in Abuja, yesterday, even as he announced that the clean-up programme of the Niger Delta would start in a month.
He explained that the clean-up would start from Ogoniland and spread to other parts of the region.
Boro noted that on assumption of office in August last year, he designed an exit strategy for the amnesty programme which he described as extremely expensive for the nation saying that 3,232 beneficiaries of the programme would exit this year.
All those affected, according to him, had been trained as entrepreneurs and given business and set-up starter packs.
He said: “A lot has happened, particularly, now that the programme has an exit strategy. It is an expensive programme because of the security nature. We cannot be paying so much without knowing when we will stop paying. Although this is expensive, everything has been planned. So, we have planned it in such a way that all things being equal, the programme is supposed to end in two years.
“What I want to achieve is sustainable re-integration because since I assumed office on the last day of July last year, there have not been skirmishes that disrupted economic activities as such. There has been peace and I want to sustain the peace that we have been enjoying in that area.”
According to him, 17, 323 beneficiaries had been trained out of a total of 30, 000, leaving a balance of 12, 678 who are at present in various institutions of higher learning, or learning trades in the country and other parts of the world.
According to him, the exit of 3,232 beneficiaries this month and others before the end of the year would save the nation about N4.6 billion in stipend payment this year.
He explained that until now, there had not been any group of beneficiaries that had exited the programme, saying, “This is significant in a five-year programme of the Amnesty which has never exited any beneficiary before I took over.”
Boro noted that his team had taken proactive steps with a view to moving the Amnesty officials closer to the beneficiaries by opening offices in Akwa Ibom, Edo, Cross River, Delta and Rivers States, stressing that similar offices would be opened in Abia, Bayelsa, Imo and Ondo States.
He said: “The aim of opening offices in the Niger Delta states is to bring the Amnesty Office close to the locations of the ex-agitators to achieve effective coordination of their activities. We have also opened an office in our mission in the UK because just before I took office, there were protests all over where we have our students. So, I feel it is proper for me to open offices where they are so that they can go and complain, if they have any, instead of protesting and embarrassing the nation. The same thing I want to do for the US, South Africa, Russia and Malaysia. I feel it is better we have offices where our embassies are so that we can better manage the beneficiaries in those places.”