Special Adviser to the President and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Professor Charles Dokubo, has called for a comprehensive audit of the 10-year-old programme to determine how far it has met the initial aspirations.
At a media parley in Abuja on Wednesday, Dokubo also disclosed that a report on the invasion and looting of training equipment at the programme’s vocational centre in Kiama, Bayelsa State has been submitted to the Inspector General of Police more than three months ago.
He lamented that at inception, there were 30,000 individuals on the list of registered beneficiaries but that the number has not reduced despite the fact that most of the initial beneficiaries were dead.
“We have 30,000 people that were beneficiaries of the amnesty programme when the programme commenced.
“I am sorry to say that today, we still have 30,000 people on the programme. What it means is that in the 10 years, nobody died, nobody graduated from the institutions.
“Amnesty in the Niger Delta is a family thing. If somebody who is a beneficiary dies, his son takes over. We have seen letters from solicitors informing us that someone’s father has died and that the son be allowed to take over.
“That is why you can see the struggles, the contestations and the protestations we have that this office is ours, why would they stop the programme?”
He cited the example of a lawyer who wrote the Amnesty Office asking that the child of a deceased beneficiary be substituted with that of his son.
“I am also shocked that school fees of our students continue to increase. I discovered that before I took office, there was a deployment of about 700 students in various schools but they did not go through the Amnesty Office.
“Some staff of the office were collecting bribes and inserting their names even when their names were not on the project.”
Dokubo explained that certain entrenched interests were angry that he was carrying out a reorganization of the Office like the Vendors’ Association and those who were anxious to take over the running of the programme.
“The Amnesty Programme has been bedevilled with a lot of things and when you are in an environment where you have such group of people that have entrenched themselves in the system when you try to bring a new plan, there is always resistance.
“In the past, they would be given contracts that they will not execute. I also discontinued the concept of paying 10 per cent mobilization fees for contracts.
“We realized that some people will take the 15 per cent and walk away. We are not executing direct labour projects and so you should go and source for money and execute the contract after which you will be paid.
“We are also putting structures in place to ensure that our people are trained so that they can find jobs. If they don’t have jobs, they are totally dependent on the stipend culture.”
According to him, a particular challenge inherent in the programme was that graduates do not even earn up to N50,000 but a stipend of N65,000 is given as stipend to a repentant militant every month.
“And when someone will stay at home and earn N65,000 as stipend, then they will prefer to stay at home and do nothing. If they will stay at home and earn N65,000, why will they trouble themselves looking for jobs and earn N50,000.”