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NIGER DELTA AMNESTY PROGRAMME

The Presidential Pardon

The President, Commander in Chief of the Armed forces of Nigeria, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua GCFR, on June 25, 2009, proclaimed a 60-day unconditional amnesty period for militants in the Niger Delta, as a step towards resolving the protracted insecurity in the region. The terms of the Amnesty include the willingness and readiness of militants to surrender their arms, unconditionally renounce militancy and sign an undertaking to this effect. In return, the government pledged its commitment to institute programmes to assist their disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and provision of reintegration assistance to the militants. These are major preconditions to address wider development challenges in the Niger Delta.

The Vision Statement

‘A Niger Delta Region populated with modern cities with leading edge environmental management practices, economic prosperity, skilled and healthy people and social harmony’

  • Objective: To contribute to security stabilization in the Niger Delta through the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and sustainable re-integration of ex-militants as a precondition for medium and long term development
  • Participants: Ex-Militants who accepted the federal government’s amnesty offer and registered for the rehabilitation and integration programme.

Deliverables and Initiatives of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration Agenda

Target: 30,000 Ex – Militants

PROCLAMATION OF AMNESTY

The presidential Amnesty Programme commenced on Thursday, July 11, 2009 when a proclamation of amnesty for Niger Delta militant who had engaged in the armed struggle for a better deal in the nation’s oil gains. In granting unconditional amnesty for the agitators, the late Yar’Adua opened a window for a period of 60 days for the agitators to lay down their arms in exchange for amnesty as a step towards redressing the adverse security situation in the oil rich Niger Delta region which had almost brought the nation’s economy to its knees. The measure was also aimed at stabilizing, consolidating and maintaining security in the region as a pre-requisite for promoting economic development. He was right on target.

BEFORE AMNESTY

Years later, precisely nine years of implementation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme [PAP], it’s indeed a new dawn with a bright future. Prior to the proclamation of amnesty when guns boomed in the creeks of the Niger Delta, Nigeria lost over one million barrels of crude oil per day [bpd] estimated to be about N8.7billion [$58m] as at May 2009. This followed a drastic reduction of the daily crude oil production figure from 2.2million bpd to an abysmal 700,000 bpd when the Niger Delta insurgency reached a boiling point in January 2009. The cut in oil production had earlier robbed the country of over $20billion in 2008, just as the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas [NLNG] reportedly lost over $2billion in 2009. The toll was not limited to the economy as over 1000 lives were said to have been lost in 2008 alone, while 128 persons were allegedly kidnapped within one year [January 2008 to January 2009].
As the crises raged, production and construction firms which were working in the area including Wilbros, Michelin, Julius Berger, as well as small and medium scale enterprises [SMEs] laid off their workers in the Niger Delta and pulled out of the region, a situation that led to the stalling of the East-West Road project for over two years. These had disastrous consequences on the nation and its citizens as several other multinational companies relocated not only from the area but also from Nigeria. The country lost billions of naira that would have accrued from oil revenue to the Federation Account, even as oil and gas companies which remained in the region with a resolve to weather the storm were compelled to cough out a whopping $3billion annually to secure their facilities and installations, as critical infrastructure, especially pipelines, became targets of serial attack. Again, this propelled the slamming of an outrageous $90million p.a. premium Marine War Risk Insurance for cargo into Nigeria.

HOME-GROWN DDR

Against the backdrop of a vision to transform the ex-combatants from militancy to gainful employment and ultimately change agents, captains of the PAP adopted the United Nations [UN] –prescribed Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration [DDR] intervention model, but developed a home-grown process which has become a global reference point.
The initial disarmament and documentation process spanned a period of 60 days between August/October 2009, and involved all known militant groups in the Niger Delta, with 20,192; 6,166, and 3,642 ex-agitators disarmed in the first, second and final phases respectively, in an exercise which is arguably the most successful disarmament exercise in the history of DDR in Africa. The recovered arms and ammunition including explosives, light and heavy weapons, were publicly destroyed at a designated site at Lokpanta, Enugu State, on May 25, 2011.
Pursuant to its mandate, the Presidential Amnesty Programme entered the next phase of demobilization via engagement of the ex-agitators in a non-violence transformation training geared towards erasing their belief in violence and offering them nonviolence as a veritable alternative to achieving development and progress in the Niger Delta. The ex-agitators are currently in various stages of reintegration.
Remarkably, women were also involved in the process, with 822 of them participating in the Amnesty Programme. Interestingly, some of the women were at the demobilization camp with their children, just as there were a few child births during their participation in camp. But their attendance of the transformation camp was restricted to batches 1, 11 and 12, to allow for the kind of special attention required of their gender.

UNIQUE DDR

Nigeria’s record in speedy and successful implementation of the first and second phases of its DDR component of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, according to reports, triggered a global demand for transfer of such programmes from the United Nations and other international agencies to governments of participating nations.
The resultant effect of Nigeria’s success in the implementation of the amnesty programme is that besides the massive mop-up of weapons from over 20,192 ex-agitators, crime and criminality, especially kidnapping and oil bunkering has drastically reduced in the Niger Delta, and enthroned peace. In the same vein, youths are being empowered through techno-vocational training, employment, and offered higher education scholarship. There is an impressive reduction in oil pipeline vandalism, entrenchment of dialogue as a means of conflict resolution in oil producing communities; increased foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Niger Delta, and a steady leap in Nigeria’s foreign reserves as a result of increased oil and gas production. This is indicative of a successful implementation of the two key mandates of the Amnesty Programme which is to maintain peace and security as well as development of the Niger Delta region.

REINTEGRATION UNDER PROF. CHARLES DOKUBO

As a first step after mounting the saddle on March 13 2018, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Prof Charles Dokubo constituted a committee headed by a university teacher, Prof. Ayibaemi Spiff, to review operations of the Amnesty Programme. Part of the findings of the committee was that while the Amnesty Office had undertaken the construction of five Vocational Training/Reintegration Centres across states in the Niger Delta, however, even when two of the centres (in Ondo and Bayelsa States) have been largely completed, none has been activated for the training of thousands of persons enrolled on the Programme that are yet to be skilled due to the failure of the Amnesty Office to pay in full the contract sums, lack of proper supervision and demand for variation by some of the contractors. Interestingly, of the 30,000 persons enlisted in the Presidential Amnesty Programme, 11,297 persons are yet to be placed in either vocational training facilities or deployed for formal education as of when Dokubo assumed office.
Consequently, besides ensuring a smooth sail for 200 delegates of the Amnesty Programme currently undergoing training in automobile at Innoson Kiara Academy, Nnewi, Anambra State, and about 559 training in agriculture at other facilities, he has put measures in place for the completion and activation of all the Vocational Training Centres under construction to fast track the training of the several beneficiaries awaiting skills acquisition. These include the Maritime Vocational Training Centre at Oboama, Rivers State; Basic Skills Vocational Training Centre in Boro Town, Kaiama, Bayelsa State, Power and Energy Vocational Training Centre in Bomadi, Delta State; Oil and Gas Vocational Training Centre, Agadagba-Obon, Ondo State, and the Agricultural Vocational Training Centre in Gelegele, Edo State. The vocational centres at Agadagba and Kaiama are expected to come on stream soon, to empower ex-agitators with viable skills to become economically independent and relevant to themselves, families, communities and the nation.

Offshore/Onshore education

Top on the priorities of Dokubo, a scholar of international repute, is the welfare of beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme undergoing educational programmes in various tertiary institutions within and outside the country. 207 students spread across 66 institutions in 20 countries are currently studying various courses. On Thursday, July 19, he visited students sponsored by the Amnesty Programme in London and met with 47 students and recent graduates from 25 institutions in the UK at the Nigeria High Commission.
The objective of the visit is to enable him evaluate the students’ academic progress, celebrate those completing their programmes and charge the remaining ones to be good ambassadors of the Programme. He also wanted to hear directly from the students, progression in their academics and general well-being, as well as interact with the Nigeria High Commission representatives. The meeting had in attendance, the Nigeria High Commissioner, Ambassador George Adesola Oguntade; Deputy High Commissioner, Ambassador Kabiru Bala, and a representative from the Office of the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

Onshore/Offshore Education Policies

Following appeals from students for the amendment of educational policies particularly for offshore education some of which had severe negative impact on them, Dokubo constituted a Policy Review Committee to undertake the assignment with a view to ensure that students under the Amnesty Programme successfully graduate, and for the Federal Government to reap its investment. While the Offshore Education Unit had in the past five years implemented eleven key operational policies to guide deployment and management of offshore students, committee reports indicated there were no set policies as of May, 2018 to guide operations of the Onshore Education Unit. Dokubo has also set the ball rolling in this regard with the drafting of new policies which have been adopted.
Effective monitoring of offshore students by Relationship Managers under his watch has reduced agitation of students since he assumed office, just as he directed the Onshore Education Unit to develop a sustainable plan for the next two years. This included the preparation of students’ allowances on a quarterly basis to ensure deadlines were strictly met and to avoid unforeseen circumstances that could warrant late disbursement of funds by the Federal Government. A verification exercise to ascertain the actual number of students who are beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme at various universities across the country will soon commence to check misappropriation of government funds. Plans are also at advanced stage for deployment of fresh delegates for educational programmes.

Amnesty Database

In furtherance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade, Dokubo has maintained zero tolerance for corruption, and remarkably succeeded in cleaning up the mess at the Amnesty Office. Apart from putting strong measures in place to deter and forestall future breaches, he has taken steps to restore the certainty and sanctity of the database of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
Sequel to alarming invoices sent by some universities in the country to the Amnesty Office for payment of tuition fees and allowances for students purportedly deployed to the institutions to undergo various educational programmes for the 2017/2018 academic session, Dokubo constituted a committee to conduct a verification exercise. The committee was mandated to amongst others; ascertain how 1,061 students were deployed in March 2018, to various institutions in the country; whether they are beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, and if their deployment followed due process. The committee discovered that out of 1,061 delegates deployed for educational programmes for the 2017/2018 academic session, only 314 were found in the database of the Amnesty Programme. It was a major anti-corruption feat achieved by Dokubo within a short period in office which has become a subject of investigation by relevant authorities.

Empowerment/Job Placement

Cognizant of the fact that the success of the Reintegration component of the Amnesty Programme depended largely on the Re-insertion part of it which entails aiding processes of returning already trained ex-agitators to civil society, Dokubo has taken bold steps on empowerment, through the provision of start-up packs and mentoring for several already trained and qualified ex-agitators to become entrepreneurs. Between April and July, 2018, the Post Training Engagement Unit of the Amnesty Office empowered 535 beneficiaries in various trade areas. Within May 25 and July 5, 271 beneficiaries were empowered in Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa states. The empowerment trade areas include, building materials (cement); fish farming, poultry, and provision shops.
On August 9, 2018, Prof Dokubo inched a step further on his ladder of achievements with the distribution of starter-packs to 150 already trained ex-agitators at Boro Town, Kaiama, in Bayelsa State. Two deep freezers, a ceiling fan, Sumec Fireman Generator, plastic buckets, 2000 litre overhead water tank, waste collection items, plastic chairs and tables are to be distributed to the beneficiaries in various locations across three states. The empowerment package for the 150 beneficiaries at the epoch making Kaiama event attended by top traditional rulers, community leaders, youth groups and government functionaries, also includes payment of a two year rent for a shop for each of the beneficiaries; frozen food items worth 500kg, shop setup with electrical, painting and furniture items. The beneficiaries are also assisted in business name registration, and are provided packaging materials, signage and stationeries.
While 3,150 graduates of vocational training programmes were scheduled for business set-up and empowerment in 2017, 2,500 delegates among them were rolled over to this year due to fund-related challenges. However, 5,700 delegates including the expected roll-over from the previous year have been proposed for empowerment/business set-up this year, depending on availability of funds.
Determined to facilitate job placement for beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme, Prof. Dokubo created a Job Placement and International Development Partners Engagement Unit (JPIDPEU) on May 2, 2018. So far, the unit has profiled 28 delegates for underwater welding jobs in oil servicing companies; 100 delegates for civil service jobs and 10 delegates for aviation crop spray pilot jobs. It has also concluded profiling of 25 delegates for catering services, hotel and fast food jobs and 75 delegates for other job opportunities. This is just the beginning of an action plan of the Post Training Engagement and Job Placement units of the Amnesty Office for the next two years. The 28 successful delegates for underwater welding jobs in oil servicing companies are among 53 delegates profiled for selection after a data verification of 103 beneficiaries on the list of those trained in welding.
The Job Placement Unit of the Amnesty Office has stepped up efforts at securing job placement opportunities for beneficiaries trained in catering, garment production and agriculture. Towards this end, it is partnering Life-ND, an agriculture-based project whose concept note was approved in December 2016 by the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (UN-IFAD/Nigeria) Executive Board andaims to integrate the youth into profitable agriculture in the Niger-Delta.
Fresh initiatives by Prof. Charles Dokubo to fast-track the training and empowerment of ex-Niger Delta agitators enlisted in the Presidential Amnesty Programme has also resulted in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Amnesty Office in Abuja on August 3, 2018. The project partnership which is for a period of three years, is aimed at transforming beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme including those to be deployed to UNITAR into successful professionals, whether in the public or private sector, and it is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is to reduce poverty by 2030.
The component of UNITAR programmes covered by the MOU included Sea-farers’ Certificate and National Diploma Course; Subsea Welding Programme, Agribusiness Skills Training Programme, as well as empowerment and job placements for trained delegates which, though a critical factor in the reintegration component of the Amnesty Programme, had not been successful in the past. The partnership with UNITAR will yield positive results, as Prof. Dokubo initiates and develop a new paradigm of reintegration programmes from national to international-based synergies. While trained delegates in maritime related skills had suffered lack of seafarers’ component to their skills acquisition in the past, the new partnership with UNITAR in this area will put an end to it.
Apart from achieving synergy between the Amnesty Office and other Ministries, Department and Agencies of the Federal Government saddled with the task of aiding the deepening peace efforts and sustainable development in the Niger Delta, Prof. Dokubo has also ensured effective liaison with Governments of the states in the Niger Delta with a view to creating platforms for the gainful employment of trained ex-agitators. This is just the beginning of several initiatives in his drive to refocus the Amnesty Programme for the benefit of its beneficiaries and the Niger Delta people. He is keeping hope alive with work in progress.
Amnesty is Working!

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