’What we are doing to maintain peace in the Niger Delta’
Brig. General Paul Boroh rtd, is the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta and coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme. In this interview with Ere-ebi AGEDAH, the amnesty boss speaks on some of the challenges facing the programme and what his office is doing. Excerpts:
About 7 years down the lane, how has the amnesty programme benefitted the Niger Delta youth?
The amnesty has brought stability and peace to people of the Niger Delta because it is an interventionist program established to ensure peace prevails in the entire Niger delta region.
The amnesty programme has equally succeeded to a large extent in stabilizing our economy and has transformed the lives of youths who had lost focus with capacity building programmes.
The amnesty program had a case load of 30,000 ex-agitators, 12,562 of them have benefited from vocational and formal training leaving a case load balance of 17, 438 outstanding, comprising of 3,799 who are currently in training and 13,619 yet to be trained .
This outstanding case load will be placed into training programmes which is ongoing and we intend that 2000 of these would be trained quarterly which will be an ongoing programme.
Is it safe to assume that the programme has achieved its objective since 2009?
Yes it has. Like I said earlier, it is an interventionist programme fashioned to stabilize the region in terms of peace and security and it has achieved a lot in this aspect and that is the reason why a number of our youths have willingly surrendered their arms in various states within the Niger Delta region.
We have trained entrepreneurs and equipped to start up their own businesses, another batch of 1,042 are currently receiving starter packs to enable them start off immediate
The amnesty programme had secured admission and a given scholarship to 5234 beneficiaries in local and 131 offshore institutions,
A breakdown of the figure showed that 3082 of the admissions are in local institutions, while 2150 are abroad, and 272 of the figure have so far graduated.
Sir, we are informed of some pipeline vandals who have shown interest to lay down their arms in Ogun State, what is your office doing as regards this?
Because the amnesty programme is on course and succeeding, a lot more persons want to disarm or want to leave the creeks and be out freely.
We have met with our strategic partners and we came out with data of over 1,500 persons in Alepo who are willing to disarm, the process of disarmament is on course and letters have been written to affect this. But in terms of capturing them in the amnesty programme, it is in the hands of the president of which we are waiting for further directives before we commence that exercise.
Bear in mind that the amnesty programme is a security programme that seeks to stabilize the already existing peace in the country, anything that has to do with security ,weapons wherever it is in this country, is my interest that persons who bear arms illegally, disarming them is what I will be very happy to do.
I am a security officer and I know the gravity and effect that could erupt from persons who bear arms illegally. All we seek to achieve is collective peace and stability in the country and we are willing to go to any length to ensure this is a reality.
What is the amnesty office doing to help setup these former ex-agitators into the system so that they can cater for themselves without depending on the government?
The amnesty programme has trained and is still training a lot of ex-agitators, when I assumed office in 2015 I came up with an exit strategy so that those who have been trained and empowered can exit the programme to go live a life without crime.
Over 3,232 beneficiaries who had undergone training as entrepreneurs have received business setups as started parks, some of them have also been engaged by the oil and gas international foundation program of which we have 400 beneficiaries from the programme who have secured job opportunities from the oil companies.
From this number the existing 3,232 beneficiaries who we have their data, are set to exit the program. We have a second batch coming up with over 1,042currently been given starter parks to establish their individual businesses as soon as they exist the programme.
This exist strategy was introduced to save the federal government a lot of money summing up to $812,760million a year which will end up in a win-win situation.
How soon is the Federal Government planning to stop the amnesty programme?
I am sure you are aware that the initial five years of the programme lapsed last December, 2015 but the federal government thought otherwise so as to forestall a resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta.
The programme cannot last forever and that was why we introduced the exit strategy into the amnesty programme which kick started when I assumed office in August 2015.
We discovered that there was a loophole in the programme and so we had to create the exit method whereby once you have been trained and rehabilitated, you leave the program and continue your life as a free citizen. After proper study and our projection, the 30,000 beneficiaries who are in our database would be rehabilitated not forgetting the availability of funds.
Adding that we must appreciate the present administration for the unflinching support to the sustenance of the amnesty programs
What are your focal areas in 2016?
We have a lot of plans which we hope to achieve but depending on the budgetary allocation and releases the amnesty office will exit an additional 2,915 beneficiaries at the end of this year which will save the government in terms of stipends of over N2.3 billion.
This exercise is a significant step by the program which has never happened in terms of exit strategy, at present the program has trained a total number of 17,322 beneficiaries leaving a balance of 1,278 who are undergoing various types of vocational and professional training.
Let me add that 5 of the 49 training centers are offshore while we have students in various tertiary institutions abroad that were sent from the 2015/16 session. The program is projected that 95% of the beneficiaries will be deployed locally due to the dwindling economy we are currently faced with as a nation, we do not want a case where our beneficiaries are out of the country and we find it difficult to sustain them.
Our skills acquisition centers are functional where beneficiaries would have the opportunity to learn different kind of skills. We have a facility at Boro town which has the capacity to train in oil and gas; there is another in Ondo state which has the facility of different vocational skills. All these centers have been visited by me and my team and we can say authoritatively that we are set to achieve a lot.
Also we have opened offices in Delta state, River, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Edo State and in a couple of weeks we hope to open a center in Bayelsa State, Imo Ondo and Abia State where information can be sort, and complains can be sent to our offices.