Boroh: Repositioning Amnesty For Lasting Peace

By Lady Nkechi Odoma

The Presidency turned out to be prophetic when it said it might have stepped on the toes of some very powerful persons in the country in its quest to ensure peace in the Niger Delta region through the Presidential Amnesty Programme.

The owners of the toes have certainly reacted with the unveiling of the campaign of calumny against the

programme’s current leadership. It is however heartwarming that the Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtd)

has vowed never to be distracted.
One can only appreciate the foregoing with hindsight of what had

happened with the programme in the past. The Amnesty Programme, meant

to rehabilitate ex-militants in the Niger Delta region, had been

reduced to one of the ATMs that provided slush funds under the former

administration. Its operation was opaque to the point that no one took

the trouble to understand or justify how funds assigned to the place

were expended.
Also, the programme had reached a stage where it was almost a foregone

conclusion that the Federal Government will continue to pay a lifetime

of benefits to those on the programme. But in five months of presiding

over the place, General Boroh had announced an exit plan for as many

as 3,232 beneficiaries in a move that will see the Federal Government

saving N2.52 billion in stipend payments. Of course those to be weaned

off stipend payment are those who have been trained as entrepreneurs

and have been given business and setup or starter packs.

He equally started a verification exercise of those attending foreign

institutions under the programme. With the penchant one had seen for

ghost workers in the past, the exercise might just as well throw up a

long list of ‘ghost ex-militants’. The verification is not however

aimed at cutting short study scholarships under the programme as some

people had speculated.
Under the current leadership, the army of consultants to the programme

has been trimmed down on the recommendation of committees that were

set up to review its operations.
The confidence that General Boroh brought on board is such that more

than 1,500 additional Niger Delta militants have indicated their

willingness to lay down their arms and embrace peace. From all

indications, this is a development that will help reduce attacks on

oil installations and also bring down the incidence of pipeline

vandalism. Now that it is known that the payment of stipends to

ex-militants is not a lifetime affairs, this round of repentant

militants are definitely not under the illusion that the Amnesty

Programme is cash office where they will pick up regular paychecks but

must have realized that they will do better to be empowered and set up

in businesses like those who embraced peace before them.

It is noteworthy that weaning the over 3000 ex-militants off stipends

has been confirmed as the first in series of steps to wind down the

programme over the next two years. This is something that no one has

broached until retired General Boroh stepped in with the courage

needed to set things right in the way the Presidential Amnesty

Programme had run in the past. It had seemed no one would dare

contemplate winding down the scheme even when it was glaring that it

was not possible to operate it in perpetuity.
Had the programme been allowed to run endlessly the guarantee of peace

in the region would have become a pipe dream at some point. The

collapse of crude oil prices is a confirmation that the Federal

Government will not always be in a position to keep paying huge

amounts as stipends. Winding down the programme, which General Boroh

has taken on with determination is the key to ensuring lasting peace.

Unfortunately, the kind of dedication and boldness exhibited by

General Boroh has its enemies. Hi approach to issues directly

threatens the meal ticket of those who had hitherto fed fat on the

Presidential Amnesty Programme. Considering the volatility that once

characterized the region, their expectation was that he would join

them in using the threat of ex-militants returning to the creeks as

a cover to continue doling out money that could be channeled to build

infrastructure into paying stipends.
It was thus not surprising when allegations started flying around that

the programme, under the current leadership, has spent N48billion in

about four months. It is a good thing that there are individuals and

organizations that do not take some rumours at face value. They dug up

the facts and it turned out that the supposed report was meant to

embarrass the Coordinator of the programme.
General Boroh himself went to town to set the records straight. From

the way he reeled out figures that were far lesser than what he was

accused of spending, one must say his detractors handed him the

opportunity to shine on a platter of gold. What was meant to be an

embarrassment for him easily became an opportunity to recount his

achievements within the short period he has been in the saddle.

One can only commend the General for the uprightness that ensured he

did not fall into the trap of those that wanted to create confusion

for personal gains. General Boroh should carry on his duties with the

kind of confidence he brought to the job. Some of us want to see a

conclusive end to this Amnesty Programme and he totally has our

support in the assignment that will restore lasting peace to the Niger

Delta and to Nigeria.
Odoma is President, Africa Arise for Change Network based in Abuja.

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