Published On: Mon, Dec 26th, 2016

Preparing Amnesty Programme For Safe -By Paul Tarela Boroh

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As the end of year approaches, it naturally lends itself for reflection. A stocktaking which in a sense is the circle of life itself; a constant process of inevitable change which ensures that there is a progression towards desired goals. The Presidential Amnesty Programme which began in 2009 is an effective strategy for Conflict Resolution.

With my experience as the last Commanding Officer of ECOMOG in Sierra Leone and as the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the Nigerian Amnesty Programme is a master stroke of Political Engineering put together by the Federal Government.  The UN spends lots of money on its peace programmes in West Africa because Amnesty by its very nature, is a very expensive programme therefore the Federal Government should be commended for being able to execute such a magnificent programme. But no amount of efforts, time and resources spent to achieve peace is too much. It is a commendable achievement for our country to disarm thousands of youths and attain a high measure of peace which has enabled the Ministries of the Niger Delta Affairs, the Environment, and the NDDC to move into the Region to   carry out development projects like the massive Ogoni Clean-Up Project.

President Buhari

President Buhari

Amnesty is a tasking process of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) for which the last phase being Reintegration is in fact, the most difficult. The phase actually comprises five parts; Reorganization, Reconstruction, Rebuilding, Reinsertion, Reconciliation – of aggrieved persons- leading to sustainable Reintegration.

One of the major achievements the Amnesty Office has made this year is to put in place offices where we have embassies to manage beneficiaries.  We also established a 24-hour Call Centre to handle complaints and reports from across the world, as well as provide the needed Real Time Information. We have also gotten representatives in various states where we operate a Liaison Office manned by an Information Manager who also liaises with Agencies, groups and individuals in the Region.

Another outstanding achievement   is the domestication of almost all the training programmes of the   Office including those on formal Education, Vocation and Post-Vocation Training. This has reduced costs – as the Foreign Exchange component is drastically reduced thereby enhancing it also means that more youths can be trained. Large numbers of the Amnesty Beneficiaries have graduated or are graduating this year, and another major bulk is scheduled to graduate in 2017. The implication of this is that more people are being empowered because we consider a University Degree as empowerment. It also means that a steady flow of beneficiaries will exit the Programme. We have also conducted a biometric verification of beneficiaries in some areas of the Niger Delta, and we are spreading the exercise to all other states covered by the Programme.

We have also invested in entrepreneurial programmes under which beneficiaries are trained in areas of their choice, and are given starter packs by the Office to establish their own businesses and become not only self -employed, but also employers of labour.

The focus of the present administration under His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari,  on agriculture has become a winning formula for us in the Amnesty Programme. Working with agencies like the Bio-Resources Centre at Odi, Bayelsa State we have sent Beneficiaries to be trained in Improved Technology Agriculture. On Tuesday December 20, 2016, 97 Beneficiaries graduated from the Centre. Four hundred and three others will graduate in the next four months.

By way of challenges, this year, there has been some reoccurrence of oil facilities vandalism. To stem it, at a point, I relocated to the creeks in order to reach out to elders, youths, stakeholders Traditional Rulers and   various camp leaders. We have recorded some success with this approach. More importantly, the Presidency is addressing directly, aspects of complaints from the Niger Delta Region which sprout from the genuine concerns of the people. The importance of this is underlined by the Presidency’s on-going engagement with the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF)

There are of course aspects that are pure criminality which have nothing to do with the aspirations and interests of the Niger Delta people. This is being addressed by the Security Agencies. It is appropriate at this point, to advise people in the Niger Delta to always take the path of dialogue and negotiation in resolving issues. We must work for peace, sustain and develop it if we hope to develop the Niger Delta Region.

There is also the challenge of Small Arms and Light Weapons proliferation; this is of course a Continental, if not a Global challenge. We at the Amnesty Office are working with concerned Agencies like the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons Proliferation and the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Development in Africa to curb this menace.

The Amnesty Office is seeking various ways to meet the challenge of unemployment by bringing Job Placement Vacancies to the attention of youths in the Region, encouraging them to develop their employ-ability skills and encouraging them to take to Agriculture. This is a sure way of gainful Self-Employment contributing to Food security in the country and revamping the country’s ailing economy.

It is our prayer that the New Year 2017 shall be a happy and rewarding one for all of us and our dear country, Nigeria.

brig-gen-paul-tarela-boroh-pixGeneral Boroh (Rtd) is Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.

(SOURCE -LEADERSHIP)

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