Niger Delta amnesty pro­gramme: Time for game change

Sunday Trust - - VIEW POINT -

The re­cent ap­point­ment by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari of Pro­fes­sor Charles Quaker-Dokubo as the new Spe­cial Ad­viser to the Pres­i­dent on Niger Delta Af­fairs and Co-or­di­na­tor of the Pres­i­den­tial Niger Delta Amnesty Pro­gramme (NDAP) qual­i­fies as a dis­pen­sa­tion with sig­nif­i­cant prom­ise to change the Niger Delta story for the bet­ter. Com­ing to drive the pro­gramme from where Bri­gadier Gen­eral Paul Boroh the im­me­di­ate past Co­or­di­na­tor left it, Pro­fes­sor Quaker-Dokubo is bring­ing to the job a rich pedi­gree of an as­tute aca­demic of in­ter­na­tional re­pute and a tested so­lu­tion provider. Need­less to state that his high rank­ing peer­age at the Nige­rian In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs (NIIA) was earned from long years of re­search and teach­ing on con­flict res­o­lu­tion in Nige­ria, Africa and be­yond.

That is why Pres­i­dent Buhari could not have picked a bet­ter en­dowed per­son for the job at this time. The ap­point­ment of the new Co­or­di­na­tor has also put paid to any in­sin­u­a­tions that the present ad­min­is­tra­tion is set to scrap the project. In the same vein his ad­vent at the NDAP is com­ing at a most aus­pi­cious time when the pro­gramme is needy of a game change for sev­eral rea­sons. This change he has rightly iden­ti­fied as a re­align­ment of the en­tire pro­gramme and in­ten­si­fy­ing its fo­cus on the chal­lenge of pro­mot­ing the de­vel­op­ment of hu­man cap­i­tal which will fa­cil­i­tate per­ma­nence of peace in the re­gion.

His dis­po­si­tion to ad­dress as a pri­or­ity the en­hance­ment of the hu­man ca­pac­ity of the youth in the re­gion re­mains unas­sail­able given the pri­macy of the hu­man fac­tor in pro­mot­ing de­vel­op­ment. For at the core of the ag­i­ta­tion by the same youth in the re­gion, is the fac­tor of their se­rial ne­glect by suc­ceed­ing ad­min­is­tra­tions. Thank­fully the fo­cus of the new Co­or­di­na­tor is fix­ated on the cre­ation of jobs for the youth.

Launched by late Pres­i­dent Umaru Yar Adua in 2009 as a three-stage Dis­ar­ma­ment, De­mo­bil­i­sa­tion and Rein­te­gra­tion (DDR) scheme, the NDAP was in­tended to pro­vide ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties be­tween the coun­try’s se­cu­rity forces and the war­ring mil­i­tants who were ag­i­tat­ing over the se­rial ne­glect of the re­gion by suc­ceed­ing Nige­rian gov­ern­ments. In the words of the rather pre­scient procla­ma­tion, Yar Adua stated that we “do rec­og­nize that the pro­vi­sion of the nec­es­sary in­fras­truc­ture for the sorely needed so­cioe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the area is de­pen­dent on an enduring at­mos­phere of peace and se­cu­rity”. Just as well, to ac­cen­tu­ate his jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the amnesty he ar­gued that “Con­struc­tive and frank en­gage­ments with all the stake­hold­ers have de­fined our ap­proach in the past two years. In line with the req­ui­site pri­or­ity which our Seven-point Agenda ac­cords to the is­sue, and in fur­ther­ance of our de­ter­mi­na­tion to de­ci­sively deal with all the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the cri­sis, a Pres­i­den­tial Panel on Amnesty and Dis­ar­ma­ment of Mil­i­tants in the Niger Delta was set up…”.

The seven point agenda he al­luded to fea­tured the en­hance­ment of life for the cit­i­zenry in the coun­try in the crit­i­cal ar­eas of ed­u­ca­tion, se­cu­rity, power and en­ergy, food se­cu­rity, wealth cre­ation and trans­porta­tion. In his judge­ment there­fore the Niger Delta would be de­nied ac­cess to the div­i­dends of the seven point agenda un­less hos­til­i­ties ceased in the re­gion.

The NDAP how­ever was not in­tended to be the ul­ti­mate so­lu­tion to the Niger Delta prob­lem but only a prompter to the wide field of stake­hold­ers to do the need­ful in their in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive ca­pac­i­ties to change the story of the re­gion. The field of stake­hold­ers in­clude the Fed­eral Min­istry of Niger Delta Af­fairs, the Niger Delta De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion (NDDC), rel­e­vant state gov­ern­ments, lo­cal gov­ern­ments, and sundry pri­vate in­ter­ests es­pe­cially the re­source ex­trac­tion com­pa­nies such as the multi-na­tional oil com­pa­nies and their indige­nous op­er­a­tors. These were ex­pected to cap­i­tal­ize on the win­dow of peace pro­vided by the NDAP.

So far such has not been the case. In­fact of­fi­cial records in­di­cate that most of these stake­hold­ers rather aban­doned their briefs with re­spect to de­vel­op­ing the zone. Per­haps the most vi­cious de­trac­tors of the re­gion could even re­main some of its indige­nous con­trac­tors who won con­tracts for projects and failed to ex­e­cute such. A typ­i­cal in­stance was in 2015 when an au­dit re­port re­vealed that out of about N700 bil­lion value of con­tracts awarded to indige­nous con­trac­tors in the re­gion, only 12% im­pact was recorded. The im­pli­ca­tion of such di­ver­sion of huge stocks of pub­lic funds by stake­hold­ers re­mains the de­nial of job op­por­tu­ni­ties for the indige­nous youth of the re­gion.

The ad­vent of the new Co­or­di­na­tor as the pur­veyor The NDAP how­ever was not in­tended to be the ul­ti­mate so­lu­tion to the Niger Delta prob­lem but only a prompter to the wide field of stake­hold­ers to do the need­ful in their in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive ca­pac­i­ties to change the story of the re­gion of peace in the re­gion, now pro­vides the op­por­tu­nity for a re­newal of com­mit­ment by the var­i­ous stake­hold­ers in the task of ex­ploit­ing the boun­ti­ful div­i­dends of the zone. In his ca­pac­ity as the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­viser on Niger Delta Af­fairs, his of­fice pro­vides the am­ple win­dow for stake hold­ers in the re­gion to re­late with him with re­spect to mov­ing the re­gion for­ward. While petroleum re­sources may have been the pri­mary money spin­ner in the re­gion, such con­sid­er­a­tion should not pre­clude the ex­ploita­tion of other av­enues for eco­nomic ex­ploita­tion, and the pro­vi­sion of job op­por­tu­ni­ties in the zone for the youth.

For in­stance ex­pert opin­ion has des­ig­nated the Niger Delta re­gion as one of the world’s most promis­ing mar­itime hubs, that is if it is de­vel­oped along such line. The axis com­pris­ing Port Har­court, Onne, Bonny and Abonema of­fers it­self as one of the most promis­ing mar­itime hubs in the world if de­vel­oped op­ti­mally. This is not to talk of the Cal­abar and Nembe axes, which are presently al­lowed to re­main fal­low, tech­ni­cally.

Be­yond the fore­go­ing how­ever re­mains the need for stake­hold­ers to give the new Co­or­di­na­tor time to turn things around in the Amnesty Pro­gramme in line with his new agenda of chang­ing the game for good es­pe­cially in the light of his fo­cus on hu­man ca­pac­ity en­hance­ment.

What he needs now are ideas and valu­able in­sights on how to make the Niger Delta bet­ter, in his mis­sion to change the re­gion.

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