By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
No fewer than 7,556 ex-agitators (beneficiaries) of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) are exiting the scheme in 2016 with a total savings of N6.2 billion accruing to the federal government.
A breakdown shows that in the first quarter, 3,232 beneficiaries of the programme are exiting with N2,520,960,000 savings accruing to the federal government.
Another 1,042 beneficiaries are also expected to exit in the second quarter, with N812,760,000 saved while the third quarter will see the exit of 2,958 beneficiaries, and would lead to a savings of N2,307,240,000, according to the status report of the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration (DDR) programme.
By the fourth quarter, 324 offshore students in the scheme are expected to graduate, with a N560,978,400 savings for the government.
This will amount to a savings of N6, 201,938,400 from 7,556 exiting beneficiaries.
The savings are to be derived from stipends usually paid to the beneficiaries.
Of the 30,000 beneficiaries, 17,000 have so far completed their various training.
Meanwhile, in the latest status report of the programme obtained by THISDAY, The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the PAP, Brig.Gen Paul Boroh had lamented that it was beset by various challenges, including the emergence of new militant groups seeking to disarm and be included in the PAP.
“These challenges would require not only FGN’s support but also the participation of the multinational oil companies, international community and organisations,” he said.
Boroh stated that the PAP, had succeeded in stabilising the security and socio-economic situation in the Niger Delta with the resultant economic boost in the region.
According to him, the DDR programme was now in the Reintegration phase, considered the last and most enduring lap.
But he pointed out that there was no exit strategy in the six years of implementation of the programme until he assumed office.
“I inherited the entire 30,000 caseload of delegates (beneficiaries) on assumption of office in August 2015 with the mandate to reintegrate them into the economic mainstream.
“The task of securing job placement and sustainable empowerment for the beneficiaries in the face of limited job opportunities in the public and private sectors called for some radical and practicable steps that gave birth to inter-agency collaboration with strategic partners,” Boroh said.
Such partners include Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Niger Delta development Commission (NDDC), Ministry of Environment, and the International Oil Companies (IOCs).
Others are United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Union (EU), US Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Department for International Development (DFID), as well as military and paramilitary organisations.
These inter-agency collaborations and relationships, he stated, “are strategic in our Reintegration drive, especially NCDMB efforts in ensuring Nigerian Content compliance in the oil and gas sector, where we have the largest number of trained delegates.”
Already, Boroh has held consultations with some Service Chiefs of military and paramilitary organisations, who have reportedly indicated interest to support the reintegration drive of the PAP.
The non- conclusion of the programme in December 2015 could be traced to the position of the Transition and Empowerment Task Force, which was set up to ensure an effective closure of the programme in line with the Terms of the Amnesty Agreement between the federal government and the Niger Delta Ex-militants.
The task force had in its report submitted that the lack of exit strategy by the previous administration has created a deficit that made the proposed exit date of December 2015 unfeasible.
“Therefore, a limited extension of two years for the sustainable reintegration of the PAP for Niger Delta is desirable to implement the exit strategy with timelines that will not compromise national security.”
Such strategy/timelines include, among others, the following:
*The exit strategy should be properly communicated and accepted by stakeholders. This aspect is said to be ongoing
*The programme will not cost more than what is necessary to achieve the stated goals and objectives
*The transition and scaling down of the programme through restructuring. This is also already being implemented to save cos
* A biometric data verification of beneficiaries to enable a more prudent and cost effective management
* Ascertain actual status and cost implications of the caseload
*Calculate the cost of meeting government’s commitment to the programme
*Encourage a buy-in or support from international development partners, with the aim of cutting cost. This is also said to be ongoing.
The key recommendation in the transition exit strategy is the change of nomenclature of the Presidential Amnesty Programme to Presidential Sustainable Reintegration Programme.
This is believed to have the potential of strengthening the focus of the government and change the perception of the programme.
This is believed to have the potential of helping “the government to erase the word ‘amnesty’ from our national life, so that no one, no ethnic group , no state and no region can take up arms against the state and aspire to such special pardon called ‘Amnesty.”
The PAP was initiated by the administration of late President Umaru Musa Ya’Adua on June 25, 2009 with 26, 358 ex-agitators granted amnesty after meeting the government’s deadline to surrender their arms.
Following a seemingly unabating violent protests in the Niger Delta and Abuja by ex-militants claiming to have been excluded from the scheme, the immediate-past president, Goodluck Jonathan had in late 2012 approved the inclusion of an additional 3,642, bringing the total number to 30,000.