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June 22, 2024

Wobbling Presidential Amnesty Programme: Dennis Brutu Otuaro to the rescue

Wobbling Presidential Amnesty Programme: Dennis Brutu Otuaro to the rescue

By Eshanekpe Israel

It is no more news that the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP declared at the wake of the bloody insurgency in the Niger Delta region, South-South Nigeria by the late President Shehu Yar’dua on October 4, 2009 nosedived into the abyss shortly after the exit of the pioneer management from the socio-political scene.

It was aimed to be an interventionist agency that seek to address the generational/grotesque marginalisation of the people of the region and their environment rising from the ashes of the bloody confrontation that saw the youths of the region in fierce armed conflict against the Nigerian establishment.

Kingsley Kuku was named the 3rd Chairman and  Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs of that agency. The then incoming Chairman faced daunting tasks of firstly, mopping up the small and medium arms in the region, profiled ex-militants, established the Amnesty office and set it on the path of regional socio-economic recovery with a marching order set the ball rolling for a new region brimming with hope and aspirations.

It should be recalled that on the expiration of the deadline set for submission of weapons by militants in the region, who fought persistently for self-determination of the region, no fewer than 20,192 former arms bearer submitted their weapons, while another set of about 9,808 were to follow later to set the stage for non-violence training at the Obubra, Cross Rivers State’s camp opened by the government for that purpose.

The Nigerian episode turned out to be one of the best Disarmament, De-mobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme ever organised in the world, especially as no single shot was fired, neither was any life lost during the period.

Whereas, similar programmes organised by the United Nations in different parts of the world, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo Brazzaville and Sri Lanka, amongst others, not only were several persons killed during the disarmament and de-mobilisation stages, some of the programmes failed to yield the desired results. Consequently, the Nigerian example has become a source of study for countries and organisations across the globe, including the UN.

Kuku had announced  the disarmament and demobilisation of all 20,192 ex-militants in the first phase of the amnesty programme.

Today, the official record stands at 2009 ( 20,192) for phase 1, while phase 2 stands at 6,166 in 2010 and phase 3 in 2012 stood at 3,642 totalling 30,000 beneficiaries till date.

Even while the first two stages of disarmament and de-mobilisation were on, the process of re-integrating those already weaned of violent attributes set off with the posting of the ex-militants to training centres at home and abroad.

No fewer than 2,000 repentant militants  were sent overseas for academic and skills acquisition training in countries such as the United States, Russia, Poland, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Ghana, amongst others. This is exclusive of thousands of others who underwent similar training at centres across the country.

The original desire of the government was to ensure that the army of ex-militants took control of oil and gas resources in future which was why the FG decided to focus more on their training in relevant fields as pipeline welding, deep sea diving, under water welding and piloting of helicopters, especially as most of the oil companies in the Niger Delta rely on the use of helicopters for their operations. Consequently, no fewer than 40 of the ex-militants had undergone aviation training in South Africa.

One major mileage the country garnered since the amnesty programme took off in October 2009 is the upsurge in oil production capacity from about 700,000 barrels per day during the troubled days to well over 2.4 million at present. This made it possible for Nigeria to retain its pre-eminent position in oil production in Africa from Angola, which took advantage of the crisis in the Niger Delta to upstage the country.

Besides, the relative peace that had been restored in the region has restored investors’ confidence in the region and country, to the extent that oil and gas firms that relocated from the country in the aftermath of the restiveness in the Niger Delta returned.

Even countries that had earlier treated Nigeria as a pariah state were then collaborating with the federal government to ensure the success of the amnesty programme. Their conviction, it was learnt, was borne out of the success made of the programme by the government.

The Amnesty Programme also afforded the federal government the opportunity to develop more skill acquisition centres in the country and raise them to global standards, which

was to assist the government to cut down on overseas training and save money that would have been sending the ex-militants abroad.

At that time under Kuku’s management, 60 percent of training of the ex-militants was done overseas against 40 percent for local training, 70 percent of Amnesty Office’s budget was devoted to local training, against offshore training’s 40 percent.

As a critical stakeholder in the Niger Delta project, it became very obvious to every critical mind that the period under review was the best for the Amnesty Programme owing to proper monitoring and supervision by the office the then National Security Adviser to the President to whom the PAP administrator reported.

At the exit of Kuku and the then administration, all the goodwill plummeted and eroded gradually till the present day. The political will went to the winds, stakeholders became accomplices in the destruction of the programme, while the presidency through the office of the NSA became neck-deep in the maladministration that plagued the intervention agency till date rendering it a toothless dog that no longer bite. Productivity dwindled by the moments while the workforce in the PAP office became agents of anarchy and banana peels to the programme. The human capital development zeal of the programme was muted, making the intervention agency suffer convulsion and in dire need of life support lest it goes into extinction.

Successive administrations after the golden era when Kuku was at the helm of affairs suffered terrible fate owing to badly developed mindset of the residents who supposedly be the mentor and midwife of a successful programme.

For instance, retired army Generals were appointed one time another another in addition a professor who at a time held sway but the stories of their failure followed same pattern owing to corrupt tendencies of the individual NSA under whose whims they functioned.

The NSA later at a time discovered that the programme was a cash cow and money-spinner through which they successfully perpetrated massive corruption in connivance with those at the helm of affairs who were conscripted and tied to their apron string. Unfortunately, the stakeholders and beneficiaries of the programme alike joined in the destruction that undermined the would-have-being good visions of every administrator appointed.

The administrators, interim or substantive no doubt, came to uphold their integrity having served meritoriously as career professionals in their respective fields but for the bug of corruption, they were in the course of managing PAP arrested and conscripted into the world of abysmal failures which ultimately resulted in the limping, fumbling and wobbling of the programme.

Corruption is the bane of a successful amnesty programme. It was badly compromised while all the factors that necessitated the youths restiveness in the region are still conspicuously affecting the region and her people – underdevelopment, misappropriation of funds, environmental degradation, marginalisation, segregation, oppression…

The disturbing question on the lips of discerning minds is: should the program be scrapped? The answer to me, Eshanekpe Israel, a.k.a Akpodoro, who is the Mayor of Urhoboland, is a resounding no. The best thing to do is what the pivot of the Renewed Hope mantra, President Bola Tinubu, has done.

The President, having seen through the labyrinth of the deliberate conspiracies to plunge the PAP, went back to the basics. He beamed his searchlight on the critical stakeholders and appointed an agent of change and accelerated development. A reputable administrator who had cut his teeth in public service.

Dr Brutu Otuaro is the man of the moment who is armed with the vision and mission to rewrite the ugly trajectory of the amnesty programme. He has a vision to depart from the norm, raise the stake, and write his name in the heart of the citizens of the Niger Delta region.

Dr Otuaro landed with a bang, he has come to pick up the pieces of the PAP, breathe life into its dead bones, resuscitate it and set it on the path of revival for the betterment of all Niger Deltans across the board.

Flying the flag of the Renewed Hope Agenda in synergy with that of the aboriginal Niger Deltan, Dr Otuaro is ready for the business of intervening positively in the programme as a technocrat to uplift the soul and body of the PAP. He is already setting in motion the process of filing the rough edges of the programme by resuming aggressive training and empowerment of ex-militants and persons of the region. In vocational and academic training, Dr. Otuaro regrets years of backwardness with a vow to upscale training programmes.

At the moment, just a handful of ex-militants are scantily located at training centres, but Dr Otuaro will triple the number of trainees, both vocational and academic empowerment. 

As an academic, Dr. Otuaro, from his body language, won’t owe beneficiaries of a scholarship in his avowed response to years of lacking in these areas while new beneficiaries will be enrolled in.

Dr Otuaro is determined to make beneficiaries see beyond the monthly stipend by encouraging ex-militants to venture into more profitable ventures through training, empowerment, and post training mentorship. To him, life goes beyond the stipend, and to that end, he is on his way to make history.

In as long as Dr. Otuaro holds the ace, he can only achieve success in collaboration with the current NSA Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who is noted for his hallmark of integrity and high moral probity.

The people of the Delta region yearn for a practical change in attitude and growth in productivity level as against what obtains in the past. A practical synergy between the NSA and the administrator devoid of vestiges of corruption will go down the history as the beginning of a greater Delta region.

Conspiracy of corruption had rendered that agency a lame duck over the years owing to the character at the helm of affairs but we in the Delta region are upbeat that, with Mallam Ribadu as the NSA the dreams of working Niger Delta region is not impossible. With Dr Otuaro, the PAP will heave a sigh of relief, and the nation shall be better for it.

This piece won’t be complete without the mention of the Chairman, of the Tantita Security Services Nig LTD. High Chief Government Ekpemukpolo a.k.a Tompolo – the godfather of all well-meaning Niger Deltan youths and persons. He has proven times without number to be a major pillar in our regional drive for growth and development.

*Eshanekpe, a.k.a Akpodoro, the Mayor of Urhoboland, writes from Ughelli, Delta State