By Onuabuachi Martin
I have delayed this piece for over 5 months since after the commemoration of Prof. Charles Dokubo’s one year in office as the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Amnesty. This I have done in order to further gauge the level of consistency in his initiatives since it’s a well-known fact that newly appointed CEOs and Chairmen in our climes run out of steam immediately after the celebration of either 100 days or one year in office. Hence this piece comes off as an in-depth critique of his efforts, challenges and achievements in the last one year.
Let us by no measure talk about the rot in the Presidential Amnesty programme before now. I’ll save you the dilemma and go straight to the present. In 2018 March, we were greeted with news of a new dawn at the helm of affairs in the Presidential Amnesty Programme against the backdrop of rumours of its possible scrap by President Buhari owing to the rot allegedly noticed in the immediate last leadership.
This news was immediately greeted with Prof. Dokubo’s call for a critical stakeholder meeting involving the warring factions of ex-agitators, elders of the Niger Delta, interest groups with varying degrees of leadership tussle to grapple with and other notable Niger Delta sons in Lagos. The Lagos meeting was followed up closely by two phases of peace driven meetings in Abuja where robust discussions on the implementation of the programme were held. That meeting saw the birth of a committee headed by Prof. Ayibaemi Spiff to review the modus operandi of the Amnesty Programme.
The committee found out that the Amnesty office had undertaken the construction of five Vocational Training/Reintegration Centres across states in the Niger Delta but was yet to be equipped for the training of persons under the programme. 11,297 persons were yet to be placed under vocational training neither were they deployed for formal education.
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To curb this menace and put a reduction cap on these overwhelming numbers, Prof. Dokubo completed, equipped and activated the oil and gas vocational training centre in Agadagba-Obon, Ondo state while the Basic skills vocational training centre at Boro Town, Bayelsa State was also commissioned. Within 300 days in office, an implementation of the Agricultural vocational training centre in Gelegele, Edo State was kick-started with a foundation laying ceremony on February 15. On the 350th count of his number of days in office, we saw the deliberate attempt to complete the power and energy vocational training centre and the Maritime Vocational Training centre in Bomadi, Delta state and Oboama, Rivers state respectively.
Invariably, on our last count, 1,401 persons have been enrolled as trainees in various key skill sets in the last one year in office while 1,165 persons have received entrepreneurial start-up packs after being severally trained.
On our fact-finding visit on the various activities of the programme under Prof. Dokubo especially amidst several allegations of misappropriation, we were shocked to notice that 1,230 beneficiaries of the programme have been offered fully funded scholarship and enrolled in 11 partnering institutions of higher learning in the country while 207 students have been spread to over 60 institutions in more than 18 countries in January 2019 alone.
Counting down, in May this year, we found out that over 357 jobs have been secured cutting across civil service, oil servicing firms, aviation crop spray, hospitality management and underwater welding.
Asides the creation of the Job Placement and International Development Partners Engagement Unit saddled with the strategic responsibility of catering for the local and international job needs of persons registered under the amnesty programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo has also secured NAFDAC’S approval to use 23 technology incubation centres for cluster manufacturing by Agro Trained beneficiaries of the programme with a Train The Trainers sustainability initiative. As part of his re-insertion plans, Prof Dokubo is finalising plans to certify Agric-based trainees and beneficiaries of the scheme as Amnesty Programme Training consultants for Agric based contracts and future Agric based training programmes.
These efforts in our opinion have set the ground running for the successful scaling of the programme with a view to putting an end to the scourge of ghost trainees. We can, however, confirm that the payment of monthly stipends to ex-agitators has not been stopped as rumoured neither has the in-training allowance of students been scrapped. On the several allegations levelled against him, we, however, found out that the looting and vandalization of Kaiama Vocational Training Centre which was billed to be commissioned same month were done to ridicule his efforts and frustrate him. We, however, have it on good authority that replacements are ongoing at the moment.
Also to curb the menace of contract scams, Prof Dokubo has invoked an implementation of the Bureau of Public Procurement Act which deters and metes out penalties for contractors who sublet contracts of the Amnesty office to third parties. On hearing the varying degrees of allegations levelled against Prof Dokubo, this independent fact check was constituted to either validate the accusations as factual or to put to rest the accusations as baseless. Either way, this exercise was done painstakingly in the last one year to reveal the truth on the activities of Prof Charles Dokubo.
Finally, this fact-finding will go on and more publications will be made in the nearest future on the activities of Prof Charles Dokubo.
*Mr. Onuabuachi Prince Martin, Co-founder Governance Fact Check writes from Abuja.