Some leaders of the protesting groups, including Mr Samuel Sogulu, “Commander” Rawlings Ezetu, “Commander” Ebilo of Third Phase and Opukeme Orubo, insisted that the amnesty programme under the administration of Boroh had become an avenue for political aides and staff of the amnesty office to amass wealth at the expense of the peace in the region.
•Ex-agitators allege powerful northerners‘ve hijacked Amnesty Programme
•Those calling for Boroh’s sack‘re funded by angry politicians- Egbesu Fighters, Red Scorpion Warriors
By Emma Amaize,
BEFORE now, the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (retd.) had managed to navigate the affairs of the amnesty programme in spite of the hurly-burly from some ex-agitators, but lately, the reverberations from the creeks against his leadership have become more alarming.
Saturday Vanguard learned that Boroh, who is also the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta has more than any other time since his appointment, in the last few days, reached out to some Niger Delta leaders and youth leaders in the region to calm the raging storm, but the boys seemed adamant, accusing him of mortgaging their future.
Siege to East-West Road
On Wednesday, protesting youths demanding his removal provisionally grounded vehicular movement and commercial activities at Opokuma Junction axis of East –West Road and Igbogene gateway, in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, alleging hijack of the amnesty programme by northerners, lack of consultation, nonperformance and diversion of funds meant for the implementation of the programme by officials.
While scores of youths gathered at the Igbogene gateway to Yenagoa, the state capital, seeking Boroh’s sack, hundreds of others who belonged to the first, second and third phases of amnesty beneficiaries, under the aegis of Niger Deltans for Accountability and Good Governance, converged on the Opokuma Junction of the East -West Road, calling for the removal of the amnesty boss.
Armed with placards, some of which read: “Buhari sack Boroh now,” “Boroh must go,” “EFCC submit your report on Boroh,” the protesters called on President Muhammadu Buhari to consider the fact that as 80 per cent of the amnesty beneficiaries and kinsmen of the amnesty boss, “We have reviewed his performance and found out that he is a failure and his non-performance is encouraging renewed hostilities and militancy.
PANDEF to meet FG
The Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, led by elder statesman and former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, had also raised a special committee to confer with the Federal Government on issues pertaining to the programme and its continuation. PANDEF committee is co-chaired by two former governors, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd.) of Akwa Ibom state and Prof Oserheimen Osunbor of Edo state.
Protesters hired by politicians – Akpobubakaye
Head of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, Niger-Delta Office, Kaiama, Bayelsa , Engr. Jude Akpobubakaye, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard on phone, said those protesting against the Amnesty Coordinator were paid by politicians eyeing the office. Akpobubakaye, who stated that he was a product of the Amnesty Programme, disclosed that when the Amnesty Office got intelligence information about the planned protests, the Coordinator set up a peace team headed by a respected Niger Delta leader, Elder T. K Ogoriba, to mediate, but the boys said they had collected money and would , therefore, not back down.
According to him, “First, I can tell you that the PAP under Boroh has opened a 24-hour call centre manned by a very senior officer and whenever complaints and observations come, the issues are taken directly to the respective departments. It was after this that the Niger Delta office, which I am the head, was opened.”
“We are on ground, we are all part of the struggle, and my numbers are known to the ex-agitators, the PAP delegation led by Ogoriba, which I was part of, went round before the current protests started. We first went to Bayelsa state, Ughelli, Warri and other areas and we met with them. We also met with the leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council, western zone.
“Even the leaders of the Bayelsa protest in Bayelsa state, we met them, we told them to put their grievances in writing and should not carry out any protests because we would take their grievances to the boss, Boroh, and surely their complaints will be addressed. But they told us categorically that they would not stop the planned protests for the reason that they had been paid by some politician to carry out the protests.
Ughelli, Warri refused to join protest
“At Ughelli, the boys were even more angry that those in Bayelsa, but after they listened to us, it seemed they saw the reason not to sabotage the programme. We went to Warri, and met with various groups and communities on the need to maintain the peace.
“We assured them we were going to take their observations to Boroh and Monday, we went to Abuja. On Tuesday, we were meeting with Boroh to brief him on our assignment when the boys commenced protest in Bayelsa state, you can imagine, but the boys in Ughelli and Warri declined to join the protest,” he said.
Amnesty programme not hijacked by northerners – Kiyaramo
Liaison Officer, PAP, Niger Delta, Mr. Piriye Kiyaramo, who corroborated his assertion, stated: “It is not true that the Amnesty programme has been hijacked, let those alleging that it has been hijacked prove their claim. I can tell you that no northerner has been appointed as head of PAP, it is headed by a Niger Deltan from Bayelsa.”
He, however, noted: “The office of the PAP Coordinator is a sensitive office, which many politicians are eyeing because they think it is what they can use in an election time to sway things to their favour. There are consultants and civil servants in the place and if among the civil servants, there are some northerners, I do not see anything wrong with that.”
Boroh not a puppet
His words: “The truth, however, is that Boroh is not a stooge of any northerner or any other person for that matter. Are you telling me that because President Muhammadu Buhari appointed somebody a Minister in his cabinet, then, that person is his stooge? I am the liaison officer for Niger Delta, I am on ground, I have gone round the nine states of the region and met with the leading ex-agitators, they know me, I have told them, if you have complaints, put them in writing, document them, it will be filed and followed up, not carrying placards and staging protests along the East –West Road.
“We have told them to go beyond this mentality, which is why there is Niger Delta office at Kaima. There is a 24-hour call service in the Amnesty Office even if they want to call Abuja at any time, but this idea of letting some politicians to influence them will not help anybody. I hope you know who Elder Ogoriba is in the Niger Delta struggle, the Amnesty Office foresaw what is playing out and he and others were brought on board to explain the true situation of things to the boys. They did this, we were all part of it, yet, they went ahead to protest because they have been paid. It is wrong, that is what we are saying,” he said.
Kiyaramo said some of the ex-agitators want immediate benefits and gratifications, but pointed out that under the present programme, it was difficult for Boroh to give anybody gratification or the kind of benefit they were expecting from him, otherwise, he would be in trouble.
He said: “However, I am not surprised that they are behaving like this because we are approaching an election year and politicians want to use them to achieve their desired objectives, but I can tell you that the Amnesty programme under Boroh is focused.”
Northerners purportedly hijack amnesty program
The call for his removal has, however, split the ex-agitators with a group describing those opposed to him as “enemies of the region.” Leaders of Amnesty Phase II, Lord Agbuke and Lucky Otete, in a statement, claimed that under Brig Gen Boroh, some powerful northern politicians have hijacked the Amnesty Office, shortchanging Niger Delta beneficiaries of the programme at training institutions, while Boroh took directives from them.
“What we are seeing in the Presidential Amnesty Program under the watch of Brig Gen Paul Boroh is something we do not understand, specifically in the Educational department .It is sad to mention that Paul Boroh, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta was recommended to President Muhamadu Buhari by some politicians. These northern politicians have hijacked the office of the chairman. Paul Boroh is just a ceremonial head. He only endorses memos while they take decisions.
“It might interest the general public to know that the Educational department is influenced by those persons in such a manner that the original beneficiaries from the region, who submitted arms and were captured and received monthly stipends, are being short-changed with Hausa/Fulani names as benefactors during training institutions of the program.
“People, who ordinarily cannot afford to see the walls of the university have been short changed by some unknown persons from the northern and eastern parts of the country, perhaps sold our chances to those persons we cannot tell. We have made series of applications, which have been sent to the office for approval for our boys to go to school, yet to no avail.
“But when you make a visit to schools like Novena University, Igbinedion University, Benson Idahosa University and the likes, you will see strange faces and names as Niger Delta beneficiaries of the Amnesty programme, who are not members of the program that were captured by the former administration,” they alleged.
Their words: “We have evidence to back our allegation. We are calling on Niger Delta leaders, who are in the APC administration to prevail on the Special Adviser to Mr. President to take a visit to the educational departments mentioned and correct the injustices in the department for proper and effective administration because if no proper scrutiny is made to correct the anomalies in the amnesty programme, our boys will be permanently shortchanged forever without justice.”
They warned: “If justice is not done, our boys who have been short changed may have problem with us, the leaders, for not protecting them in the amnesty programme, so we call on President Buhari and Paul Boroh to look into the matter. We are also calling on the security agencies to investigate that department because there is a serious fraud there.”
“Boroh does not understand how they are running that office, we will let him know how things are done .We, the leaders and the boys understand what is going on, he does not consult us before doing things, especially in the area of training. He should always consult the leaders before any directive is taken to avoid similar errors in the future,” the militant leaders cautioned.
Discontented, fraudulent politicians after Boroh – Opukeme, Freeman
But the leaders of Niger Delta Supreme Egbesu Freedom Fighters and Niger Delta Red Scorpion Warriors, “General” Obus Opukeme and “General” Odudu Freeman, said those calling for Boroh’s sack were sponsored by disgruntled politicians to derail the programme.
They urged the nonexistent groups and compromised youths “to retrace their steps or be prepared to face the wrath of militants as their identities are known to us.”
Throwing their weight behind Boroh for his “transparent leadership and repositioning the Amnesty Programme”, the two groups said: “General Paul Boroh has made tireless efforts to the sustained peace process that the country is currently enjoying in the region, hence should be appreciated by all genuine stakeholders from the region.”
They added: “General Boroh had steadily used his good office to engage various genuine agitating militant groups, traditional rulers and well-meaning stakeholders in the region to foster peace, stability, progress and attract development under the President Muhammadu Buhari- led APC government than the previous miserable PDP government.”
“General Paul Boroh had risked his life to visit the entire length and breadth of the creek of the Niger Delta to calm frayed nerves in the wake of the destruction of oil pipelines and oil facilities in 2016. He brought several empowerment programmes through the Amnesty Programme by engaging various militant groups in agriculture while transparency and accountability has been his watch word, which can be attested to by the regular payment of monthly stipends to ex-agitators and militants undergoing training,” the groups asserted.
According to them, “General Boroh also contributed immensely to the ceasefire agreement in 2016 that led to increase in the crude oil production to 2.2million barrels, which contributed to the nation’s economic recovery.”
Further describing those calling for his sack as “evil and desperate people, who have lost touch with the reality on ground,” they urged President Buhari to ignore calls for the removal of Boroh, saying, “the calls are coming from corrupt personalities desperate and bent on sponsoring nonexistent militant groups to forge baseless stories.”
Appeal to Finance minister on release of stipends
“We use this opportunity to urge the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun , not to delay the release of funds for the payment of monthly stipends to ex militants in order to sustain the existing peace in the creeks of Niger Delta.
“And if the federal government and the security agencies refuse to call this evil plotters and disgruntled elements sponsoring various groups that are calling for the removal of Paul Boroh to order, then, we will be left with no option than to declare another war in the creek of Niger Delta and whatever shall be the outcome, we should not be held responsible,” they warned.