IN one of his rare public outings, the National Security Adviser, NSA, retired Major General Mohammed Babagana Monguno, penultimate weekend appeared to confirm the worst fears of some stakeholders in the Niger Delta when he announced that he had advised President Muhammadu Buhari to scrap the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP.
The NSA complained that the eleven-year-old programme has gulped N712 billion which he said is “basically unaccounted for, and this is due to so many issues, corruption being the main thing”. He also said the programme was not supposed to continue indefinitely. “There is no place on the surface of this earth where programmes that are supposed to be palliatives will continue forever”.
A confusing element was the introduction of retired Col. Milland Dikio, whom the NSA said had been charged to “refocus” the programme. But now the question: Is the Federal Government refocusing the programme or winding it down? There is a need for clarification on government’s exact intentions.
Indeed, the PAP was not meant to become a permanent, statutory programme like the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. The monthly payouts and funds dedicated to the rehabilitation of ex-militants and their sponsors were not meant to continue ad infinitum. After all, the militancy has since died down.
However, Niger Delta stakeholders and beneficiaries of the PAP funds insist that the militancy died down because of the PAP, and that the nation risks a resumption of militancy in our oil-rich zone if this programme is scrapped. The Federal Government is left to weigh the opportunity cost of continuing the payouts or risking the possible return of disruptions in the oil industry and our economy.
We are convinced that, at least for now, the programme should be continued until we outgrow the capacity of militants to hold the country’s economy by the jugular. It is a matter of applying wisdom rather than logic or ego. Sometimes it is best to let the sleeping dog lie.
It is disheartening, however, that over five years after taking over the reins of power, the Buhari government that puts a great premium on anti-corruption continues to lament over alleged corruption in this programme which is administered right from his office. Why has it taken until now to “refocus” the programme?
Even if the PAP is to be scrapped, Col. Dikio should gradually wind it down and its functions and funds transferred to the NDDC by 2023 when the Buhari regime ends. There are many useful programmes the PAP is handling such as the apprenticeship and scholarship schemes. These should not be stopped.
Buhari should kill the prebendal corruption in the PAP without altogether abandoning the roles it plays in upgrading human capacity in the Niger Delta.