Time to Rejig Niger Delta Ministry/Amnesty Office



with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com;  07013940521 (Text only)

Our great nation is witnessing an unprecedented resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta simply because the two men charged with the responsibility of ensuring a smooth relationship with the region do not understand the language of the leaders and the restive youths in this area. Here, I am talking about the Niger Delta Minister, Uguru Usain and the Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme/Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (Rtd). Niger Delta leaders and youths also do not understand the language of these men. They have obviously failed to perform, thus, resulting in the crisis we are experiencing. These are “yes men” incapable of influencing President Muhammadu Buhari to appropriately respond to the needs of the region. Very sensitive offices like these ones should be occupied by real men capable of looking at the president directly in the eye and insisting on implementing the practical needs of the people as contained in the Niger Delta Master Plan put together during the late President Yar’Adua’s administration.

These positions should be occupied by men highly respected by the leaders and youths of this region; men with an enviable track record in the region; men who know where the shoe tweaks and not just anybody. Usain and Boroh have been a catastrophe in the last six months. Key stakeholders in the region don’t even know them. This is what partly gave birth to the emergence of the Niger Delta Avengers and the nonsensical destruction of our oil resources. Under these two men, the amnesty programme has almost collapsed due to a serious funding crisis and mismanagement. I am not sorry to say that Uguru and Boroh are just passengers in the Niger Delta bus. They cannot actualise the task of managing the region.
An apparently frustrated group of activists, The Ijaw Collectives recently called for the immediate removal of Boroh and extensive probe of the amnesty programme under his leadership. The group said it had observed that the gains recorded in the area of peace and stability over the past few years, particularly since the intervention of the late Yar’Adua, have virtually become completely eroded since Boroh took over as the Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
It added: “As genuine stakeholders in the region, we have observed that the current state of things in the region is not only rather assuming a disturbing level but a clear indictment on the choice of Boroh for that office, and a wake-up call for President Buhari to investigate the matter and take immediate action. There is no doubt that the gross incompetence of Boroh resulted in the recent resurgence of militant activities in the Niger Delta region, leading to a monumental pollution of our environment and a colossal loss of revenue for our dear nation.”

The 2015 Status Report of the Presidential Amnesty Programme recently submitted to the Senate Committees on the Niger Delta and Public Procurement is a further confirmation that Boroh is not doing justice to the mandate given to him. Some of the 2015 expenditures were clearly not in the interest of the troubled region and ex-militants. The issue is not about Amnesty Office’s contracts passing through tenders’ board and complying with due process. The truth is that some of the expenditures were simply preposterous. For example, I can’t understand why Boroh is justifying the purchase of an armoured Lexus for N55 million amidst so much financial crisis in the Amnesty Office. This Lexus is clearly for Boro’s comfort. It is very sad to note that the Amnesty Office spent over N157 million on cars within five months of 2015 – One Toyota Land Cruiser at N25.85 million; four Toyota Camry and four Toyota Hilux 4WD at N75.35 million. The N510 million paid to Westerfield College by the Amnesty Office to prepare 150 Amnesty students for one-year advanced level programme was also outrageous. This is about N3.4 million per student.

There is also the need to review the huge forex being spent on students in foreign universities by the Amnesty Office. The N10.4 billion expended on tuition fees, in-training allowances, accommodation and books for students offshore and onshore last year is frightening. I am very sure that the students sent abroad got the bulk of this N10.4 billion. Boroh should patronise Nigerian universities and save our dear country this huge forex outflow. The exception should be for courses not available in Nigeria.
For the Niger Delta minister, after several months in office, he still does not understand the issues in the region. I am sure that he can’t point to any concrete thing as his achievement since assumption of office. In this part of the world, men like Boroh and Usain won’t resign even when they are not making any meaningful contributions. Buhari should do the needful by retiring them. People with clout who understand the language of the leaders and youths of this region should be brought in to reinvigorate the amnesty programme. This is the only way forward.

Buhari’s Ear Infection: The Shame of a Nation
When will President Buhari start practicing what he preaches? Why should a man who has always been preaching that Nigerians should, at all times, look inwards to cut forex expenses, now travel to the United Kingdom for “further evaluation” of a mere ear infection? Buhari travelled with a retinue of aides on the Presidential jet. No doubt, a huge amount of our scarce forex will go into this medical trip. Is this how we are going to conserve forex? We have some of the best E.N.T specialists around here, yet, Buhari has chosen to travel to UK for further evaluation of a mere ear infection. Is Buhari saying that our almighty National Hospital in Abuja is incapable of evaluating a mere ear infection? What about the State House clinic that gulps billions of Naira annually? I know that in this year’s budget alone, the Aso Clinic got close to N4 billion. Still, it is incapable of evaluating a mere ear infection? There is also a National Ear Centre in Kaduna. Buhari promised to upgrade our hospitals as part of his change agenda. What he has simply told us by his action is that one year after his promise, we don’t have an hospital capable of properly evaluating his ear infection. For me, this trip to the UK by Buhari is a pathetic and unjustifiable stain on Nigeria’s image. I have done my checks and I can confirm that this country has some of the best E.N.T specialists in the world. Modern facilities are also in some of the hospitals. However, our president needs to get more state-of-the art facilities into more public hospitals, to give access to more people.

We all need to deeply reflect on the position of Osahon Enabulele, vice president, Commonwealth Medical Association who advised the president to live by example by curbing medical tourism. He noted: “I am very constrained to state that this foreign medical trip flies in the face of the federal government’s earlier declaration of her resolve to halt the embarrassing phenomenon of outward medical tourism, which as at the end of the year 2013 had led to a humongous capital flight of about $1 billion dollars, particularly from expenses incurred by political and public office holders and their accompanying aides, whose foreign medical trips most of which are unnecessary, were financed with tax payers’ resources.
“The President has lost a golden opportunity to assert his change mantra through a clear demonstration of leadership by example, by staying back to receive medical treatment in Nigeria. Receiving treatment in Nigeria would inspire confidence in the health sector which currently boasts of medical experts that favourably compare with medical experts anywhere in the world, if not better.”
Our president must also be seen encouraging domestic tourism. This idea of spending his vacation in London is laughable. We can’t be asking foreigners to spend their vacation in our country when we as key stakeholders are not doing same. The president must lead in domestic tourism. I will like to see Buhari spending his vacation in a serene place like Ikorodu or Obudu Cattle Ranch.

The Jester Called Chris Ngige
Sometimes I wonder how Buhari came about some of the jesters in his cabinet. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment is one of such that never ceases to amaze me. I am still struggling to comprehend his recent threat to deal with banks and financial institutions that fail to honour his dictate to them, to suspend further retrenchment of their workers. This is an uninformed and populist instruction. Is Ngige not aware that Nigeria’s labour law does not empower him to issue such a directive? We need to educate this jester that Nigeria’s labour laws (just as it is anywhere in the world) envisages redundancy and makes provisions in Section 20 of the Labour Act to guide the actions of the parties in the event of retrenchment.
This minister needs to be educated on the fundamentals of industrial relations and labour laws of this country. Employers have rights, which include the right to hire and fire within the rules governing such employment contract and employers’ prerogatives, which are not subject to Ngige’s directives. The gale of retrenchment is a product of our sliding economy and unfriendly government policies. What Ngige and his colleagues should be doing is working towards an enabling environment for businesses to survive/grow, which will lead to job creation; not issuing laughable directives.

54 Coronets for Timi Alaibe
Timi Alaibe, a great son of Ijaw land, former Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), former Special Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs and Chairman, Amnesty Implementation Committee under late President Umaru Yar’Adua was 54 yesterday.
The entire life of this peace-loving man has been devoted to the service of his people. He maintains a resolute and inborn determination to make life better for those around him. That is the driving force that has guided all he has been doing in the region. This was evident during his tenure in the NDDC and the Amnesty Office, described by many as phenomenal considering the peace and landmark development witnessed in the Niger Delta then. This humble and easy-going man still enjoys a special place in the hearts of Niger Deltans. My dear brother, happy birthday in arrears. I wish you many more years in good health.

Memo to General Tukur Buratai
My dear General Buratai, our gallant soldiers under your command have no doubt been doing their best in the war against Boko Haram terrorists. However, my heart bleeds whenever I remember certain things requiring the urgent attention of our gallant soldiers. For example, as at yesterday, two local government areas in Borno State – Abadam and Mobbar – were still firmly under the control of the terrorists. Some residents of these local governments who are refugees in Maiduguri confirmed this to me. I was also reliably informed that the terrorists now launch most of their attacks from Abadam and Mobbar LGAs. They also attack towns in neighbouring countries from these two new strongholds. Again, these terrorists also roam freely on the outskirts of Gwoza, petrifying and killing people. Of course, the attack on a police station and military base in Kanama, the headquarters of Yunusari Local Government Area of Yobe State on Tuesday is still fresh in our memories. Seven people were killed in the attack that lasted almost five hours. This shows that the terrorists are still very strong in Yunusari LGAs. Our gallant soldiers must do more to end incessant attacks in these areas mentioned and take full control of Abadam and Mobbar LGAs. My brother, Tukur, please seek assistance (manpower and equipment) from Russia, North Korea and China. These are the countries we can depend on. May Allah continue to help you in this tedious task.