Presidential Amnesty Programme: More Openness Please!


Ezekiel Daminabo


Just as one bad turn ruins an otherwise fine trip, so do tendencies of misguided presumptions and attendant indiscrete responses, account for the less than optimal corporate governance practices, in the leadership circles of not a few organisations - at least in the Nigerian public space. The Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) - judging by its recent history, suffers from an integrity surfeit courtesy of a hangover of past regime of compromised corporate governance, during the tenures of some of its immediate past leaders. At least it is not for nothing that the immediate past two Coordinators of the programme have unfinished business with the anti graft agency Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) even after they have left office.

The PAP has had at its helm as pioneer Co-ordinator General Godwin Abbe (rtd) who was succeeded by Chief Timi Alaibe, both of whose tenure generated no significant controversy. However for Alaibe's successor Kingsley Kuku, his reported escape from the country and continued evasion of a rendezvous with the EFCC - three years after he left office, has not helped his case. According to media reports, just last May a crack team of armed police officers raided his country home in Arogbo Ese-Odo in Ondo State, searching for valuable evidence in respect of his matter. Just as well Kuku's successor - Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtd), is still sorting out himself with the EFCC, in a continuing drama that commenced with his unceremonious sack by President Muhamadu Buhari,  detention by the anti graft-agency and possible prosecution. This is not to mention the rumours making the rounds that the sum of $96 million (hard currency in cash) was found in his house at the time of his arrest. While the EFCC has withheld any official confirmation of the story, the public take on the matter is different.  The fact remains that in case the story is true, then his house must have enjoyed the special status of an extended vault for the PAP funds, beyond the traditional office safes and designated banks.

Come on stage Professor Charles Quaker-Dokubo,the newly appointed replacement for Boroh as Special Adviser to the President on the Niger Delta and Coordinator of the PAP. Against the backdrop of this column's position of adopting a moral high-ground in addressing topical national issues, it welcomed the advent of Quaker-Dokubo with a hope it shared with millions of the long suffering Nigerians of Niger Delta extraction, who are trapped in the paradox of jaundiced Nigerian national politics, which routinely denigrates the Niger Delta, undeservedly.

Standing on the same moral high-ground, this column remains duty bound to help guide the new helmsman Quaker- Dokubo, to avoid some if not all the inanities that plagued the tenures of his immediate past two predecessors, and thereby change the Niger Delta narrative.  And the starting point for the change Nigerians expect from him is to avoid a repeat of the erstwhile voodoo like culture of redoubtable secrecy by his predecessors, by  adopting the cardinal premise of sound corporate governance, being openness in his administrative initiatives with respect to the programme.

It is on record that he started well by launching a review of the fortunes of the PAP before his tenure by a committee under the leadership of erudite Professor Ayebaemi Spiff and other well meaning Nigerians. That committee's report understandably unearthed far reaching revelations which indicted some previous leaderships of the programme. Another Committee set up by him, this time led by the Head of the Amnesty Reintegration Officer Aroloyeteim Brown, has also unearthed evidence of infestation of the programme's training schemes with ghost names and infiltrators.  It is therefore an incontestable fact that Quaker-Dokubo is on  a mission to cleanse the fabled 'Augean' stable that has travelled through time and was relived in the precincts of the PAP. Good job at that!

Yet he faces the onerous task of facilitating a robust buy-in into the programme by the full gamut of stakeholders in the PAP, starting with the ex-agitators for whom the programme was established by late President Umaru Yar Adua, the various state and non-state corporate actors, generality of Niger Delta peoples as well as all other Nigerians. And the starting point is the presentation to the public of the revelations on the deviant tendencies that compromised the course of the PAP, along with his new template for driving it forward.

The reasons for more openness in the affairs of the PAP as recommended are legion, with space constraint allowing for the mention of just a few. Firstly the presentation to the public of the revelations on the good, bad and ugly aspects of the past operations of the PAP will inform the public adequately as of right,  as well as afford  any person indicted in the mismanagement of the PAP, the opportunity of defending him or her self. Secondly availing the public the picture of the past PAP and the launch of his own template will delineate and insulate the tenure of the new Coordinator from any hangover of malfeasance from the past.

Thirdly and most importantly Professor Charles Quaker-Dokubo needs to be more liberal with availing the public with the report under consideration for the sake of setting a statement of how his advent promises a new deal as well as promoting the merit of the decision of President Muhamadu Buhari in appointing him, to take over the PAP. Advertisers have a cliche' which states that a venture that disregards advertisement is operating like a young, handsome, desirous and virile man who is winking at a beautiful girl in the dark. Only he knows what he is doing!

The dalliance between the Presidency under President Muhamadu Buhari and the Niger Delta cannot be said to be harmonious even with the most benign pretension. The relationship started on a rocky note in 2015 with the then new President adopting a gun-boat policy of attrition towards the agitation in the region which he inherited. Meanwhile before his advent, the region had been enjoying some relative peace courtesy of ameliorative measures by Buhari's predecessors - notably Umaru Ya Adua, who initiated the Amnesty program. Infact it was no secret that Buhari's body language early in his presidency was even interpreted as him nursing the intention to terminate the PAP. As a result the various peoples of the Niger Delta region are yet to confer full trust on the President with respect to his take on the welfare of the region.

It will serve Quaker-Dokubo well if he identifies speedily with this reality and work towards an information driven, new operational paradigm for the PAP. Valid questions he remains duty bound to address and urgently too, include what future for the PAP beyond the present posturing of sundry government officials,  and what relationship does his office have with the wide field of stake holders in the PAP. His response to such queries will determine the premium the Niger Delta region will ultimately place on his tenure which is purely at the pleasure of President Muhamadu Buhari.