There must be transparency and accountability in N’Delta amnesty programme – Interview

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There must be transparency and accountability in N’Delta amnesty programme – Interview

“There must be transparency and accountability in N’Delta amnesty programme” – Interview with Professor Seve Azaiki

Published Sat 8th August 2015 – Guardian Newspaper

What is your take on the appointment of a new helmsman for the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme?

I believe that President  Muhammadu Buhari was properly advised as he consulted widely before appointing Brigadier-General P.T  Boroh as the co-coordinator of the amnesty program. I have confidence in his professional pedigree and experience.

President Buhari has a good understanding of the Niger Delta. When the President was the chairman of PTF, as Secretary of the Bayelsa State  Fund Raising Committee  in 1998, I was directed by the Military  Administrator, Lieutenant Colonel  Edore Obi to invite the General to be chairman of the occasion. I discussed the Niger Delta, the Ijaw Nation and indeed Bayelsa State in general with him. He demonstrated a clear understanding of the issues and at that time he showed compassion.  He came and donated money on behalf of PTF. It was that money that was given to Julius Berger to start the first major road in Yenenagoa, Capital of Bayelsa State

 

Do you see his choice as appropriate and apt, considering his military background and issues surrounding the programme of late, including non-payment of the entitlements of the beneficiaries, etc?

As I said President Buhari consulted widely. The President understands the issue of militancy, given his military background. I think President Buhari must have been influenced by the recommendation of key players in the region. Let me say it here that the militants are constantly under the temptation to go back to the creeks. We need a strong leader schooled in the art of provocation and conflict resolution.  Again he is retired, so on face value we can accept him as a civilian but inside him I know  that military background will help. The war is not over yet. There are disappointments on failed expectations  from the former government. The issue of payment of fees, entitlements ,allowances  etc., will be properly handled, especially now that people are being held accountable and fiscal responsibility is not only expected, but now required.

Do you see him making the desired impact/difference?

Brigadier – General Boroh has extensive military training that will factor into the discharge of his mandate. He has character and integrity. The amnesty helmsman needs to be a man with self-discipline; one who can listen and worry about three things. First,the benefit to the region and image of Nigeria, and showing compassion  and genuine interest in the success of the program.

I am really impressed with his academic background, Peace and Conflict Studies, Political Science, Strategic Studies and positive transformation skills. I am impressed with his work experience; chief of staff of the United Nation peace keeping mission in Liberia. He has seen action in Sierra-Leone, Somalia and Darfur and of course his contribution to Nigeria and the Nigerian military is obvious

 

Has the programme really achieved its aims and should it be continued?

Has the program achieved its objective? It’s debatable at best. Proponents point to the suspended tension and anxiety once a flashpoint threatening the nation’s treasure base. Cynics of the program suggest its implementation was commercialized; it has been too political and patronizing. It only concentrated on the militants and contractors forgetting the Niger Delta Environment and its people and the future and Hope of our people. However, the program should continue under re- Defined objective and strategy. The strategy must now take into consideration, our environment, our people and the beneficiary’s future not just training and abandonment

If yes, how can it be boosted/improved upon?

I think the amnesty program should continue. However under to new redefined objective taken into consideration our poverty, our environment and our aspiration as a people. There must be transparency and accountability. We must look at areas of need when developing the blue print for man power development, for example if you are training so many pilots then there must begas many air lines. We may probably be better off looking at skills acquisition training at internationally recognized institution rather than the mere acquisition of University Degrees, there must be a data bank of our needs as a Nation, data bank of our youth, data bank on trained youth, then there must be space for constant review.

What advice to the new helmsman in this regard?

My advice to Gen. Boroh is to be practical, go back home and go around the creeks, by pass the middlemen and talk to the youths, their parents, community leaders and probably set up a quiet committee to review the program so far. He must exhibit transparency and accountability, avoid nepotism and blatant corruption. His achievement will only be seen  from ten years up so he should not be looking for awards and chieftaincy titles and political capitals now.

How should this government handle the programme and Niger Delta affairs?

This program should be given the opportunity to perform and succeed. President Buhari has appointed a well-qualified man as the chief Executive. “A round peg in a round hole” the government and President Buhari must and should understand that the Niger Delta people remain unhappy, angry and frustrated. There are hundreds of oil spills daily, gas is still flaring, the people still remain poor. The frustration comes from failed expectations  of the Jonathan government. The East west Road is yet to be completed, Port Harcourt airport remain uncompleted ,the people are murmuring, the frustration will boil over if they think the North has taken power to continue to keep them in perpetual poverty. President Buhari must know that Nigeria is at war with Boko  Haram and oil thieves and Kidnappers. We must sustain the fragile Peace in the Niger Delta so that the government can concentrate on winning the war on terrorism in  the North East of our country.

PROF. STEVE AZAIKI

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