Boroh: Repositioning Amnesty For Lasting Peace
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.
Written by Lady Nkechi Odoma, President, Africa Arise for Change Network based in Abuja.