Presidential Amnesty Programme: Then and Now

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Charles Dokubo
Prof. Charles Dokubo

Bayo Akinloye

Following the incapacitation and the failure of all other initiatives with regards to the growth and the development of the Niger-Delta region, the Nigerian government under the Late President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, decided on the 25th of June, 2009, to establish the Presidential Amnesty Programme — a special institution that will not only grant amnesty to the Niger-delta militants but will also oversee the human development capacity of the region.

However, at the time, the amnesty programme was created as a response to against the menace of social agitations that had undermined insecurity and the development of the region in which the agitators were most-often-than-not involved in unwanted destruction of government and community properties, blowing up of pipelines and other oil infrastructures etc.

The report of the government-constituted Technical Committee on the Niger Delta, which was submitted to the then Nigeria’s President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on December 1, 2008 that eventually gave birth to the PAP, offered the region a great opportunity to reduce violent conflict significantly and to begin longer-term regional development in the oil-rich region.

The success of the Amnesty programme evolved around the willingness and readiness of the militants to surrender their arms and unconditionally, renounce militancy and sign an undertaking to this effect. And in return, the government pledged its commitment to institute programmes to rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-militants under a structured Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) programme.

It is important to note that the DDR programme of the PAP was not the one usually conceived to reflect what we have under the framework of ordinary peace agreement although it drew a lot from international standards and principles that are consistent with the national context.

A further examination of the PAP shows that the programme has undergone a transcendental progression through the various phases of Disarmament, Demobilization, and Rehabilitation. In fact, these phases have been concluded.

As at when Prof. Charles Dokubo took over as the present Special Adviser to the President and the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Program, the programme was at its Reintegration Phase – a phase that is pivoted on training; education and knowledge; vocational and skills acquisition. One thing stood out clearly, since the inception of the programme to the time Professor Dokubo took over; the programmes’ predecessors were only interested in education and training without recourse given to empowerment and job placement.
Hence, the turning point of PAP was under the leadership of Dokubo. Having come on board, he injected new thinking and dimension to the programme. This new thinking is all about the introduction of job placement programmes, micro-credit, cooperatives, business support, monitoring, and evaluation.

What informed Dokubo’s thought is the fact that for the programme to achieve its objectives, the Niger-Delta youths do not only need to be taught to go through training and education, but they should be assisted to rediscover their potentialities and further made to be self-reliant, as this will keep the youths engaged.

Furthermore, since taking over, the number of ex-militants that have graduated has increased geometrically to over 20, 000. On his watch, about 3, 243 persons are at present undergoing training while 5, 578 are at the same time awaiting training (this is because the PAP does the training in batches).

With regards to education, a breakdown show that, of 2,577 persons are in school right now, 1,060 persons are studying in not less than 10 universities (both private and government) locally, while 1,517 are studying abroad in over 50 universities spread across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

PAP is doing all this knowing that knowledge and education are key factors to the full and effective participation of youths in the processes of social, economic and political development. What education does to the youth is that it gives them the knowledge, capacities, skills and ethical values needed to fulfil their role as agents of development, good governance, social inclusion, tolerance, and peace.

We recognise the fact that greater focus on universal access to education, quality education, human rights education and learning is key for young people to be able to address their aspirations and challenges, fulfil their potential and influence current and future social and economic conditions and opportunities.

PAP Empowerment through Vocational Skills/Acquisition
Skills and vocational training is another area where Dokubo has done tremendously well. Skills acquisition involves the development of a new skill usually gained through training or experience. Vocational skill is a highly useful education as its occupational content is such that the trainee acquires skills, attitudes, interest, and knowledge to perform socially and economically scientific knowledge.
Vocational skill is all-embracing since it prepares its recipient for a living. In that light, it can be argued that entrepreneurship would hardly yield the desired result unless it is accompanied with skills acquisition/knowledge component. If that is the case, a vocational skill, therefore, becomes indispensable for economic growth and development. That is why vocational/skill acquisition is a priority for Dokubo under the PAP.

Deriving from that, therefore, under his watch, a total of 18,602 received vocational training in specialized courses. This is the breakdown: agriculture, 2,265; automobile mechanics, 1,171; welding/fabrication 4,686; entrepreneurship, 2,074; carpentry, plumbing and pipe fitting, 402; electrical installation/maintenance, 714; information and communications technology, 401; crane/heavy duty operations, 1,536; health safety and environment, 249; music/fashion/entertainment/catering, 1688; others, 2,185; aviation, 187; and boat building, 152; Out of the 3243 in training, 3,006 are receiving education; 2,799 in universities in Nigeria, and 207 students in universities and colleges abroad.

Also, at the moment, 237 are receiving specialized vocational training, 217 in vocational/skills acquisition in Nigeria, and, 20 undergoing specialized training Aviation training at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT). This shows that the training component of the reintegration programme has had a modest impact on human capacity development in the Niger Delta.
Thus said, right now, Dokubo is working on setting up in collaboration with the different state governments’ vocational training centres (VTCs) in different fields. Two of these centres are already commissioned. The oil and gas training centre in Agadaba-Obon, Ondo State and the Basic Skills Training Centre in Kaiama in Bayelsa State.

PAP and Entrepreneurship Development
Empowerment through job placement and entrepreneurship is the new dimension introduced by Professor Charles Dokubo. However, for us to understand what PAP is doing with regards to job placement and entrepreneurship, it is important we situate the definition of entrepreneurship within the PAP framework.

That notwithstanding, an entrepreneur is a person who tries to do something new ideas, visualizes a business opportunity, organizes the necessary resources for setting up the business and bears the risk involved. Thus, an entrepreneur may be termed as an innovator, an organizer, and a risk bearer.

On the contrary, the Nigerian scenarios have depicted that many Niger-Delta youths and citizens do not have the financial muscles to set-up their businesses, and PAP realizing this and further recognizing that governments alone cannot provide jobs for its teeming youth population, have astutely developed programmes towards the expansion of economic activities through entrepreneurship and job placements of all the trained delegates. Right now, PAP is liaising with different organisations such as United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to help in this regards.

Although, post-training engagement for already trained ex-militants remains daunting. However, the present amnesty coordinator has so far empowered and facilitated the set-up of small and medium scale businesses for nearly 4,450 ex-militants. Some of the many trained delegates have secured direct employment in the public and private sectors within and outside the country.

Conclusively, since taking over, Dokubo has restructured and created the programme such that in the long run, it will proffer solution to the endemic crisis and give room to sustainable security in the region and to Nigeria as a whole.

This is imperative, knowing that if we give these young men and women from the Niger-Delta favourable conditions and policies to enable them to gain employment, it will keep them busy, invariably, they will not have time for much agitation or to foment more trouble. On the contrary, a properly empowered youth within the region is also a potential employer of labour, thus contributing to economic growth as well as development.