THE Presidential Amnesty Programme, which was established by the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua in June 2009 as a peace offer to the Niger Delta militants to unconditionally drop their agitation in exchange for a number of Federal Government beneficial packages (especially human capacity building) has endured through three regimes though it was initially meant to last for only five years.
That is because stakeholders in the Niger Delta, especially the youths and other agitators, have held onto this programme which official reports claim, has benefited over five million people, as one of their conditions for peace. After initially trying – and failing – to force its way through, the President Muhammadu Buhari regime decided to continue with the programme by appointing Bayelsa State-born retired Brigadier-General Paul Boroh as its Coordinator.
Since it was set up nine years ago, the Presidential Amnesty Programme, which has gulped nearly N500 billion, has swum in allegations of corruption. The Coordinators, who are also Presidential Advisers on Amnesty, have always been accused of involvement inhumongous sleaze. Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Adviser and Coordinator of the Programme, Mr Kingsley Kuku, has been in and out of the net of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), while the first Coordinator appointed by President Buhari, Boroh, was fired on 13th March 2017, for alleged corruption.
In spite of the open anti-corruption stance of the current Amnesty Coordinator and Presidential Adviser, Professor Quaker Dokubo, committees he set up to evaluate all the sectors of the Programme still discovered that only 314 out of 1,061 students slated to participate in the programme for the 2017/2018 session were actually found in the database of the Amnesty Programme.
It has been over one year since Brig-General Boroh was sacked. The discovery by Professor Quaker’s committee of this tranche of “ghost” participants simply means that corruption in the establishment goes beyond its Chief Executive Officers. The rank and file of the staff are neck-deep in it. For the organisation to be rid of graft there must be a comprehensive check on its activities since its inception, and all who are found culpable should be severely punished for corruption and sabotage of the programme.
A situation where less than one third of students meant to benefit from the training programmes of the Amnesty Office are actually enrolled while the fund for the rest 647 “ghost” students ended up in the pockets of crooked staff cannot be allowed to go unpunished or the trend will simply continue.
The Amnesty Programme is one of the reasons there is relative peace in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Corruption should not be allowed to derail its noble objectives. There must be zero tolerance for corruption in that establishment.