By Donu kogbara
THE endlessly controversial Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, grabs more headlines. But the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, is actually much more important than NDDC in real terms because without the fragile peace that has ensued since the late President Yar’Adua decided to neutralise ex-militants by paying them off, the Nigerian oil industry would be on its knees.
Nextier SPD consultants have prepared a detailed assessment of the PAP. The full report is available on nextierspd.com. I thought I should share the executive summary with Vanguard readers:
Nigeria has continued to lag in human capital and infrastructural development despite being the world’s tenth-largest producer of crude oil and Africa’s largest exporter of petroleum.
The Niger Delta region which harbours these natural resources, like other regions of the country, is marred by youth unemployment, environmental degradation and other forms of socio-economic and political deprivations.
On account of perceived neglect of the region, the area was awash with youth restiveness and criminal violence in much of the late 1990s to late 2000s, posing a huge security threat to lives, livelihoods, environment and critical oil infrastructure.
In the era spanning 2007 to 2009, Nigeria’s oil production was as low as 700,000 barrels per day, bpd, from the daily crude production of 2.2 million previously recorded, leading to estimated loss of more than one million bpd, which as of May 2009 was calculated to be about N8.7 billion or $58 million daily.
The economic losses as well as the deteriorating security situation in the region led to the proclamation of amnesty for militant groups in the region by President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2009.
The Presidential Amnesty Programme was modelled after the United Nation’s Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration, DDR, interventionist programme. The PAP was adjudged a success for restoring oil production to pre-amnesty level and reducing the scale of insecurity in the region.
The programme supported ex-militants with monthly stipends as well as provided vocational and university education as part of the DDR process. However, 10 years into the programme, there are concerns that the programme has derailed from its original objectives.
Besides the fact that the programme was originally designed to last for five years, today, it appears that the programme has no terminal date in sight. Moreover, it is becoming too expensive to maintain, as well as being marred by corruption, nepotism, prebendal and patrimonial acts.
Between 2010 and 2014, the implementation of the Amnesty programme gulped N243 billion (US$1.68 billion) making this home-grown DDR programme one of the world’s most expensive.
In 2017, the amnesty budget almost tripled, with an additional N30 billion ($98.47 million) being released and an extra N5 billion reportedly added at a later stage. Until 2016 the annual budget was N20 billion.
The report finds that the PAP has succeeded in improving the security situation in the region and putting more than 20,000 beneficiaries through various formal education and vocational training programmes
Like most bureaucratic institutions in the country, the PAP suffers from lack of transparency, consistency and efficient management of resources. It has been characterised by a vision targeted only toward reducing threats to oil production.
Following the not-too-impressive management and implementation of the programme over the last 10 years, especially as it concerns achieving its main objectives, this report, which is based on survey research, reviews the overall performance of the programme, examines challenges which have prevented it from producing optimal results and proposes policy approaches for the transition of the programme.
The report finds that the PAP has succeeded in improving the security situation in the region and putting more than 20,000 beneficiaries through various formal education and vocational training programmes, enterprise development, apprenticeship schemes, and job placement initiatives.
However, there is a growing view that the PAP has overstayed its welcome, even though there is a prevailing attachment to the programme on account that its closure could cause the eruption of more violent agitation from a new crop of militants.
With the overarching goal of the Amnesty programme being security stabilisation as a precondition for intensive socio-economic development of the region, an assessment of the PAP would essentially focus on the effective implementation of the DDR process.
To assess the PAP, it will be necessary to examine it from a number of perspectives. This will be done by assessing the following areas:
• programme performance: which will consider whether implementation is proceeding in accordance with the programme plan and budget;
• programme effectiveness: which will examine whether and to what extent the programme has achieved its objectives, and on what external conditions it depends; and,
• programme efficiency: which will determine whether programme outputs and outcomes were produced in the most economical way or are wasteful.
The approach and method adopted by the team of consultants for this project is a mixed research methodology: literature review of PAP documents and relevant research papers, in-depth/oral interviews for identified key stakeholders in the region, and focus group discussions.
In light of the findings of the assessment of the PAP, this report makes the case for a transition strategy away from PAP as it is currently constituted to another form of mechanism that could foster peace and security, and also address the issue of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta, avoiding the challenges as discussed.
Four main transition options were presented for consideration, highlighting the implications for each of the options. Of the four options listed below, the team of experts advanced arguments while concluding that Option 4 is the most suitable.
Option 1: Closure of programme. Propose a closure process for the programme over a short time frame (about nine months), ensuring that all registered beneficiaries complete their reintegration programme within this period;
Option 2: Devolution of PAP Programme Activities to Federal MDAs. Divesting the PAP activities into the programmes of other federal MDAs;
Option 3: Transforming PAP into an Autonomous Youth Programme which would not be just focused on militant youth but youth as a whole; and,
Option 4: Devolving PAP Activities to State Oil Development Commissions which entails divesting powers from the centreand to agencies of state governments, encouraging more local ownership and supervision.
The following recommendations emanate from the assessment:
• To address this feeling of exclusion from PAP which has made violence a recurring decimal in the Niger Delta, the plight of excluded active youth, women and ravaged communities must be factored into the transition or exit strategy of PAP.
• Corruption needs to be significantly reduced through effective oversight functions, deployment of robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms as well as prosecution and sanctioning of those indicted for corruption.
• Innovative strategies must be used to get jobs for those who have been trained in order to prevent them from relapse into violent crimes in their quest for socioeconomic survival.
• Open up the space for the private, non-oil businesses and not-for-profit sectors to participate in/contribute to the programme.
This broadening of participation will promote the integration of those trained on the programme and also boost acceptability of the programme by international actors.
• Finally, even though poverty alleviation does not fall directly within the remit of PAP, the programme has been expected to have significant impact on the socioeconomic wellbeing and thus livelihood of its beneficiaries.
Food for thought indeed about yet another government initiative that has fallen short of desired outcomes!