By Michael Eboh
The Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, despite gulping billions of naira annually over the last 11 years, had failed to address various challenges that necessitated its setting up in the first instance, according to a report published by international development consulting firm, Nextier Security, Peace and Development, SPD.
Presenting key findings in the report, sponsored by the Nigerian Natural Resource Charter, NNRC, at a dialogue on the PAP in Abuja, Dr. Ndubuisi Nwokolo, Senior Policy and Research Lead at Nextier SPD, argued that as it is presently constituted, the amnesty programme appears to be rewarding militancy and aggressiveness in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
He added that despite taking a heavy toll on the revenue of the Federal Government, a large number of development and infrastructural issues remained unaddressed, noting that the financial burden of the amnesty programme is unsustainable to the country.
He identified shortcomings and challenges of the Presidential Amnesty Programme to include widespread corruption, unverified beneficiaries, poor programme design, slow progress, low levels of consistency and high dependence on stipends.
According to him, the reintegration phase of the PAP was still incomplete 10 years after; while difficulty exists in getting current and reliable data on the status of reintegration of the ex-agitators, adding that the recently-suspended coordinator of the programme had brought to the notice of Nigerians, the entrenched corruption in the programme.
He said: “The programme is focused on individuals rather than the community; the payments have deepened entitlement culture and had strengthened command and control structures of groups. It is also characterized by politics of exclusion, especially the exclusion of the private sector.
“The programme is also characterized by slow pace of reintegration and lack of employment, especially as the reintegration phase of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, DDR, process, meant to last five years is still ongoing and there is difficulty of beneficiaries landing jobs after graduation.”
“It has brought about an apparent lack of coherence between PAP activities and other Niger Delta interventions; while these have resulted in poor levels of social reintegration.”
Nwokolo, however, warned that unless the programme is urgently reviewed, it would continue to serve as a drain on the Federal Government’s resources, with the monthly allocation of N5.5 billion; adding that it would continue to engender poor return on investment, record limited success in reintegrating ex-agitators, among others.
He called on the Federal Government to devolve the activities of the amnesty programme to state government’s oil development commission, stating that this would lead to higher levels of effectiveness.