Though he reportedly lost 100,000 of his followers on Twitter the previous week due to the obnoxious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police, President Muhammadu Buhari, appears to be gaining more support among the restive circles of the Niger Delta.
President Buhari’s decision to overhaul the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) for repentant Niger Delta militants is endearing him to the ex-agitators.
A repentant ex-warlord, General Para Ekiye, who is rooting for President Buhari and the Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, Milland Dikio, a retired Army Colonel, in the creeks of the oil and gas region told this reporter on the telephone on Monday that most of the ex-militants are excited.
Buhari’s overhaul is with the aim of ensuring that the dividends of the Amnesty Programme reach its original target beneficiaries.
Though President Buhari lost quite a large number of his followers on Twitter, he seems to be gaining more followers among Niger Delta fighters who can unsettle the country’s economy once they open attack on oil facilities.
Some protesters even gave the EndSARS campaign another dimension by asking Buhari’s followers on Twitter to unfollow him and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Nigerian youths were on the streets since Thursday clamouring for its scrapping nationwide. But the government only promised to reform the hated police outfit, notorious for the extra-judicial killing of young Nigerians, harassment and torture.
While Nigerians were intensifying pressure on the Buhari administration to disband SARS, Ekiye said ex-militants want retired Colonel Dikio to open a channel of communication between the Amnesty Programme’s office in Abuja, and the agitators in the creeks in a bid to smoothen relations.
‘’We will also like President Buhari to empower Dikio more by making him his Special Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs, and speedily confirm his appointment as the PAP boss’’, Ekiye said.
Continuing, Ekiye said they are worried that the Programme is currently owing contractors N71,411,646,210.68. ‘’This is the kind of nonsense that informs Mr. President’s quest to overhaul the Programme. We will support him to ensure that the Programme succeeds once we are carried along’’, the ex-militant leader said.
Dikio, however, met with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, last week where he disclosed that PAP was indebted to contractors to the tune of N71.4 billion. He stated that the Programme hitherto meant to train and rehabilitate ex-agitators had deviated from its original plan owing to corruption in the management of its affairs.
The Amnesty Programme was set up by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua administration. It was designed to last for a few years within which militants will be disarmed, demobilised and reintegrated into civil society.
“Immediately after the disarmament phase, challenges including endemic corruption cropped in and derailed the Programme’’, Dikio said, adding, “lack of enough funds and corruption were blamed for impeding the effective operationalisation of the Programme.
‘’Regrettably, the Programme has now been running for 11 years without the desired benefits delivered to the ex-agitators. Rather, the ex-agitator database was dishonestly corrupted and several contracts were awarded in total disregard of need and procurement processes.’’
Dikio notes that the success of the Programme was predicated on its ability to move ex-agitators from their previous lifestyles to sustainable livelihoods as peaceful members of their communities, and by extension contributors to the Nigerian economy.
Decrying that not much progress has been made in the area of demobilisation, and reintegration, the retired Army Colonel pointed out that PAP is not sustainable under its existing form.
According to him, ‘’reports have shown that not much progress has been recorded in some aspects of the demobilisation and reintegration components of PAP. To address this, the need to focus on education and vocational training in ways that the benefits are channelled through a transparent, accountable, corrupt-free and the institutionalised process is imperative.’’
Continuing, the PAP Coordinator who is currently enjoying mass support of the excluded ex-agitators says, ‘’as currently structured, the Programme is not sustainable and cannot deliver the desired long-term benefit to the region and the country.
“Consistent with the Strategic Objectives of the Federal Government, the vision of the Administrator is to refocus the Amnesty Programme to its original mandate of development and security of the Niger Delta region.”
National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, a retired Army Major General, had noted that though the Programme was structured to redress observed problems facing the oil and gas region arising from sundry ecological and security challenges, it has been subsumed in issues outside of its original conception.
“The predatory instincts of certain individuals came into the fore and the programme was turned upside down and as a result of this, like the administrator has just said, there was a lot of corruption, waste and mismanagement. Within this period, N712 billion was wasted, basically unaccounted for; and this is due to so many issues, corruption being at the fore.
“Now we realised that if the focus of the people who are supposed to drive this Programme is to capsize it by allowing their own personal interest to come in, then we are all going to be in trouble because if the Niger Delta is in trouble, consequently it will extend to the rest of the federation.
“Therefore, I had to take this step to advise Mr. President that this waste cannot go on. This programme is not supposed to be an open-ended programme. There is no place on the surface of this earth where programmes that are supposed to be palliatory will continue forever.
“Therefore we decided to take immediate action by bringing in someone who can take a deep look at the programme; a person with vast experience and we all know the experience of Col. Dikio in this type of issue”, Monguno said.