By Emma Amaize,
Regional Editor, South-South
FORMER Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Brigadier-General Paul Boroh, sacked on Tuesday by President Muhammadu Buhari was not unaware that his head was on the cutting block for months running, but spirited attempts in his last days in office to stop the sword of Damocles were botched.
Over the weekend, it was as if his critics were wasting their energy, as a poised Boroh, fielding questions from State House correspondents in Abuja, hollered that those who wanted the old system of corruption and embezzlement to continue were behind outcries for his sack.
He asserted: “I want to let you know that what is happening in the Amnesty Programme is no more business as usual – that is the bottom line of all that is happening.”
“The programme actually is a security programme that has to do with critical stakeholders who drive the process. I’m only there to supervise what they are doing so that we can achieve the aim for which the programme was established, to ensure youth restiveness is not allowed and ensure peace and stability of the Niger Delta region,” he added.
But four days ago, President Buhari in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, relieved the Bayelsa-state born Boroh of his portfolio and also approved the appointment of Professor Charles Quaker Dokubo as the new Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme.
On several occasions in the last few months, Boroh and his image handlers, punctured rumours that he had been replaced or online for replacement, saying it was a speculation by idle minds and jobbers.
Before the hammer fell on Boroh, there had been vociferous calls for his removal by ex-agitators and other stakeholders, who accused him of lack of consultation and derailing the programme, but what came as a surprise, given his position on the issue of corruption was the directive by the President to the National Security Adviser (NSA) to carry out a full investigation into the activities of the Amnesty Programme from 2015 to date.
The NSA was asked to zero specially on allegations of financial impropriety and other acts allegedly detrimental to the objectives of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
Boroh contacted PANDEF, others
Saturday Vanguard gathered that when it became evident to him that the forces against him were gaining upper hand, the former PAP boss contacted the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and some influential Niger Delta leaders, but they were marshaling their strategies when his sack was sealed and delivered.
Our predicament with Boroh- Ex-agitators
Some leaders of Niger Delta ex-agitators, who spoke to our reporters, last month, on the problem with Boroh , complained that the former Coordinator made himself inaccessible, making it difficult for both sides to discuss effective ways of handling the programme and getting good result.
The ex-militant leaders alleged that there were “abnormal and irritating activities” affecting the smooth implementation of the programme and urged Boroh to convene regular meetings with them to brainstorm on the way forward. The advice was not heeded before his sack during the week
The National Vice President, PAP, Phase 2, Chief Collins Arigo, Chairman, Coalition of Urhobo Ex-militant Leaders and Public Relations Officer, PRO, Phase 2 ex-militants, Mr H. M. Ebirie, and Leader of the defunct Ogidi Militant Camp, Mr Eddy Ojobrise, a.k.a General Ojobrise, all alleged neglect by Boroh.
Arigo said: “We do not like certain happenings under Boroh. We, ex-militant leaders, who are core beneficiaries of the programme are not carried along. We find it difficult to meet with Boroh to discuss issues and the way forward, as he refused to call for the regular meetings since inception of office.
“It is at such meetings that we discuss various issues, including security and others in the Niger Delta region. Most of our ex-agitators have not been sent for training and those who went for training are not empowered yet. Our yearly housing allowances are not paid since his assumption of office.”
Aides defend him
However, Head, PAP, Niger Delta, Mr. Jude Akpobubakaye and Liaison Officer, PAP, Niger Delta, Mr. Piriye Kiyaramo, told Saturday Vanguard that it was not true that the former Amnesty Coordinator was unapproachable, saying that Boroh set up a 24-hour call centre at the PAP office in Abuja to avoid any communication gap.
IYC apparently unworried
Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, in a statement on Wednesday by the spokesperson, Barr Henry Iyalla, seemed not perturbed by Boroh’s dismissal. It asserted: “We are hopeful that with the wealth of experience Prof Dokubo brings to the table he will deal squarely with the true and pressing needs of the Niger Delta to ensure peace that will propel development.”
“We, therefore, urge him not to play politics with his position, but strive to introduce programs that will drive the development of the region and the fulfillment of the core objectives of the amnesty program,” the group added.
We were excluded – “Gen” Atake
Also, ex-agitators under the aegis of Justice Group paid little attention to his dismissal, as they hailed the appointment of his successor, Prof Dokubo. Leader of the group, self-styled “Gen” Marshal Atake, said: “As we speak, we still have not been integrated into the Amnesty Programme despite the fact that we were among those who embraced the program when it was introduced by the Federal Government in 2011 under the phase three.”
“We have written series of letters to the Amnesty office and also attended a public hearing at the Senate on 2016 over the matter, but in spite of the directive from the Senate to integrate us into the program, we are still being excluded from the program,” he complained.
He said Dokubo’s appointment was “timely, well deserved and aimed at repositioning the Amnesty Programme to achieve the objectives for which it was established.”
Group urges Buhari to overturn decision
However, a group of ex-agitators under the auspices of 21st Century Youths of Niger Delta, which launched an 11th hour action to save Boroh disagreed with calls to sack Boroh, urging President Buhari to rescind the decision.
Spokesperson of the group, W O I Izon Ebi, in a statement, asserted: “The 21st Century Youth and Agitators with conscience call on President Muhammadu Buhari to ignore the Gen Paul Boro must go protesters.”
The group described Boroh as “a man that has brought innovation, transparency and accountability into the Amnesty Programme and stood firm to advise the Federal Government on the importance of youth empowerment in the Niger Delta region.”
“The 21st Century Youth and Agitators applaud and commend Gen Paul Boroh for his uprightness and integrity in piloting the Amnesty program to move the Niger Delta forward. Unlike before, it is no more business as usual because ex agitators are now entrepreneurs and employees of labor.
He should be celebrated not denigrated
“These groups of protesters in Abuja and other parts of the Niger Delta are truly perfidious and have no conscience because of their primitive lifestyle. Their perfidious act is the very reason sea piracy and kidnapping are increasing day by day in the Niger Delta region.
“We advise these selfish protesters to take a cue from their fellow ex-agitators who have become entrepreneurs and employees of labor rather than protesting to paint the region in a bad light.
“Gen Paul Boroh efforts in advising the Federal Government on the importance of the commencement of academic session at the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State, is to be commended not vilified because the university and the establishment of youth empowerment scheme are measures to end criminality and kidnapping in the Niger Delta region,” the group further stated.
Boroh deserved sack- Kpodoh
A former Security Adviser to the Bayelsa State Government, Chief Perekeme Kpodoh, who called for Boroh’s sack, said it would reduce cases of militancy and improve consultation between the Presidency and youth of the region.
Kpodoh told reporters in Yenagoa: “ Though many Niger Delta elders had written petitions and called the attention of the President Muhammadu Buhari to the rot and fraud in the Amnesty Programme under the various leaderships without success, the decision to sack him would be welcomed.”
“We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the Amnesty office under Brig. Gen. Paul Boroh.
“ We are shocked that Brig. Paul Boroh is desperately seeking to retain his office. President Buhari should as a matter of policy, investigate how the last budgetary allocation was spent. How can the last allocation be expended without additional provision for inclusion of new beneficiaries”
“The presidency should as a matter of urgency invite the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to investigate petitions against the office. The Amnesty office has become a conduit pipe for the various chairmen. The investigation will end the embarrassing cases of militancy in the region, “he said.
Kpodoh also called on the President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate issues of incompetence and misuse of unspent Amnesty fund through hosting of seminars, meetings and lectures not needed,” adding: “When the issues of renewed militancy started, the incompetence of those in charge was revealed but instead of gathering genuine stakeholders to assist the present administration, they were busy organizing seminars and meetings with little funds.”
Buhari appeared to have hearkened to the voice of people like Kpodoh in the swift manner Boroh was fired in spite of his self-confidence after visiting Aso Villa, last weekend.