Tension is rising in the Niger Delta following a plot by a section of ex-militant leaders to launch a campaign for the removal of the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Brig.-Gen. Paul Boroh (rtd).
The group, Niger Deltans for Accountability and Good Governance (NDAGG), has already set up a Boroh-must-go website (http://www.ndagg) to push its case against the coordinator.
It accused the amnesty coordinator of denying ex-militants their entitlements.
Rooting for Boroh, however, is the Niger Delta Concerned Ex-agitators (NDCE), which in a statement in Yenagoa yesterday , warned anti-Boroh elements to forget the protests and support the Buhari government.
Also behind Boroh are ex-militant leaders of phases 2 and 3 who met in Port Harcourt, Rivers State with him.
The Presidential Amnesty Office dismissed the anti-Boroh campaign as both a hatchet job and blackmail, saying, “Unfortunately, there is a growing culture of some persons mainly from the South -South of the country playing on blackmail to get by or get contracts; this will not work with the Presidential Amnesty Programme,” the Media head of the office, Owei Lakemfa said in a statement.
The anti-Boroh group, NDAGG, plans to kick-start what it calls the mother of all protests against Boroh on Wednesday, July 5.
Follow up protests will be held at a two weeks interval.
One of such protests is scheduled for the front of Abuja House, South Kensington, London, England, where the agitators believe President Muhammadu Buhari is currently recuperating.
Another is scheduled for Consulate General of Nigeria in New York, United States of America (USA).
The group also plans to block the Mbiama axis of the East-West road, NUJ Office Warri, Delta State and Isaac Boro Park, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The group believes it can mobilize over 100,000 Niger Delta youths for the protests.
The group accused the amnesty office of massive fraud and using fake names for empowerment. The opposing group, NDCE, in a statement by its Secretary, Perewari Johnson, condemned “any form of protest that some persons are planning to embark upon against the Boroh-led Amnesty programme.”
It urged “all well-meaning stakeholders and citizens not to allow people with selfish interest to use them against their fellow Niger-Delta son who has done so well.”
It branded those clamouring for the removal of Boroh as enemies of the development of people in the region.
“They are only antagonizing Boroh’s regime in the amnesty office because unlike his predecessors he has refused to succumb to their demand to award contract that will not be executed and to share monies made for the empowerment and human capacity development of the Niger Delta region,” NDCE said.
It asked security agencies to stop the planned protest in the interest of the peace and commended the federal government for ensuring sustained peace in the region.
The ex-agitators said they were happy that the government took the right steps including increasing the budgetary allocation to the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) by N30bn to stop violent agitations in the region.
They noted that the peace deal had resulted in government’s increased attention to the region and the training and employment of over 200 youths under the PAP.
They pleaded for continued peace in the region and said: “We have confidence in the ability of the coordinator of the amnesty programme as he has been very meticulous in implementing the programme for the benefit of all former agitators and the region at large in the past two years which has translated to lasting peace in the region.
“Only in the month of June over 2000 former agitators from the region have commenced training in farming technology at the College of Agriculture at Iguoriakhi in Edo State and over 200 have been enrolled for an all-inclusive sports programme which will keep our youth gainfully engaged.”
At the Port Harcourt meeting with some ex-militants, Boroh said conflict and violence would not the resolve crises.
He tasked the leaders to constantly remind the ex-agitators in their camps not to breach the peace in the country.
The presidential aide noted that they should ensure that the non-violence agreement signed at Obubra that led to the declaration of Amnesty in 2009 was upheld.
Boroh urged the leaders to use all channels of dialogue in solving problems to allow government’s developmental projects like the rail construction, modular refineries and the community pipeline surveillance to take off.
Ex-militant leaders of phases 2 and 3 resolved at the meeting to support President Buhari’s peace initiatives for the Niger Delta region.
In a separate statement in Abuja, the Media Head of the Presidential Amnesty Office, Owei Lakemfa said the department was ready for probe of its activities, but vowed that it would not succumbed to blackmail from anyone.
His words:” The attention of the presidential amnesty office has been drawn to a group demanding a probe of its activities. As a public institution answerable to the public, the Office is obliged to give account of its activities.
“So in itself, there is nothing wrong with a probe. Also, a probe does not mean guilt; it is merely an inquiry to find out if any infraction has been committed. It is like a man under-going a routine medical check-up which does not necessarily mean he is sick.
“If in truth this group wants a probe, it ordinarily would wait for the response of the authorities it has petitioned and the outcome of the probe.
“To proceed to call for so-called protests in and outside the country until the leadership of the Presidential Amnesty Programme is replaced, is to pronounce guilt even before any investigation is carried out or the officials are given any chance to respond to the load of unsubstantiated claims.
“This is against the laws of natural justice, our national and international laws and ethics which give every human being the fundamental right to defend himself before a competent authority or court of law.
“This exposes the under belly of the probe demand as being far from altruistic; it is an indication that a hatchet job is under way. Unfortunately, there is a growing culture of some persons mainly from the South -South of the country playing on blackmail to get by or get contracts; this will not work with the Presidential Amnesty Programme. It is no more business as usual.
“Also, despite the blackmail, the Office stands by its decision that those on the Amnesty scholarship in tertiary institutions would not be entitled to be paid stipends along with their monthly In-Training-Allowance as this amounts to double payment.
“The Presidential Amnesty Programme is a professional and security interventionist agency designed to bring peace, stability and development to the Niger Delta and has so far succeeded in its primary mandate; it is therefore unpatriotic to seek to politicize it. It is indeed a security programme not a political one and the leadership of the Programme under Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtd) the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Programme has strived and has so far succeeded in shielding it away from partisan politics.
“As we know, the Federal Budget was passed about midyear, which led to long delays in payment of stipends, school fees ,projects and In-training-Allowance, but through pain staking reach out programmes, meetings, explanations and support by all and sundry, the Boroh leadership has been able to maintain continuous peace in the Niger Delta.”