By Ebi Perekeme
The Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (retd) yesterday said that the programme, which was meant to train and rehabilitate ex-agitators, has been derailed from its original focus by endemic corruption.
Dikio also told State House correspondents after meeting behind closed-doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja that the Programme owes contractors over N71.4 billion.
He saidthat the Amnesty Programme was set up by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to last for about three years within which militants would be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into civil society, regretting that the programme has entered about eleven years.
According to him, “However, immediately after the disarmament phase, challenges including endemic corruption cropped in and derailed the programme. Lack of enough funds and corruption were blamed for impeding the effective operationalization 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.
“Consequently, the programme is currently owing contractors the sum of N71,411,646,210.68. This informed Mr. President’s decision to overhaul the Programme aimed at ensuring that the dividends of the Amnesty Programme reach its original target beneficiaries.”
He affirmed that the ultimate success of the Amnesty programme lied in its ability to move ex-agitators from their previous lifestyles to sustainable livelihoods, as peaceful members of their communities and net contributors to the economy.
He further said: “Reports have shown that not much progress has been recorded in some aspects of the demobilization and reintegration components of the programme. To address this, the need to focus on education and vocational training in ways that the benefits are channeled through a transparent, accountable, corrupt-free, and institutionalized process is imperative.
“The programme as currently structured 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.”
On his part, the National Security Adviser, NSA, Major General Babagana Munguno (retd), who accompanied the Amnesty Programme Coordinator said even though the Programme was set up to redress observed problems facing Niger Delta arising from ecology and security, among others, it has been subsumed in unrelated issues it not intended.
The NSA said, “This Presidential Amnesty programme is supposed to be a very serious program for the federal government. The original intention of the programme was rooted in the fact that the people of the Niger Delta had been suffering adversely as a consequence of so many issues, ecological, security, and too many things.
“Bearing in mind the burden the region has been carrying in terms of the natural resources there. So the principal idea for setting up this programme was actually to look at issues of development and security. And when this program was set up 11, 12 years ago and I remember very clearly because when the program was initiated I was Chief of Defence Intelligence and we thought that sticking to the original timeline, in three years the programme will end.
“That is the amnesty but in which the agitators would have been fully compensated, trained, they would have acquired all the necessary skills and then become more productive to the people of that region. Unfortunately, so many things happened. Three years became 11 years and now going to 12, this is because of the vicissitudes and vagaries of our society.
“A lot of things happen to catapult the whole programme into other issues that originally was not intended. The predatory instincts of certain individuals came to 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, 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 realized that if the focus of the people who are supposed to drive this programme is to capsize the programme 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, definitely, 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.
“So basically the endemic corruption that scuttled this programme and frustrated the people of the Niger Delta is going to be addressed as soon as possible.”