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Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Quaker Dokubo recently met with some leaders of ex-agitators in Niger Delta in Lagos. He also took the opportunity to interract with some selected editors during which he spoke on his plans for the Amnesty Programme. Excerpt of the interraction of Prof Dokubo with journalists as published by SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
Q:You are coming as an academic into a new role. What are your responsibilities?
A:This is a new office, a new challenge and a new environment. In the past, I have written about the Niger Delta and my position has always been that the Niger Delta people have been marginalized; that was my view. But with the coming of the Muhammadu Buhari administration which I witnessed, there is a lot of commitment by this administration in Niger Delta in terms of funding, and in terms of looking for peace and security in that environment. You mentioned information about the increase of oil production in the Niger Delta, I think that also testifies to the fact that without peace there will be no development and without development, there will be no peace.
I will let you know about that office to which I have just been appointed, but the fact is that I don’t want to question or criticize my predecessor. Though I made inquiries of the situation of the office, my work was to immediately resolve issues; make it possible that the right people were employed at the right places and also put in all the efforts I can to do my best to make sure that the office works perfectly.
For anyone assuming a new office, you know that there are a lot of problems; those who want things to be done the way it is being done before and those who like changes. These are the contesting ideas or contesting environment within which I found myself. But be that as it may, I put in a review committee to look at issues concerning the amnesty office and then, I saw a lot of things that I didn’t even know in the amnesty programme. I tried to make sure that the best people are employed in the programme and also look at the two pivotal issues of the Amnesty Programme: security, development and enhancement of the Niger Delta people. How far has it been? What is the way forward?
The programme started very well but with time, it was driven by other demands that made it not to be very impactful. What I am doing now is to refocus the amnesty programme so that it could positively impact those who are meant to be catered for by this programme and you know that on my own, I can’t do it. That was why I initially made an attempt to meet the critical stakeholders; that is the big five. I think it was the first time in the programme that the big five had come to sit down with me and agree that they are going to drive my programme. For me, that was the best thing I have ever done; that I could bring these big five, talk to them, listen to them, and put forward the programme that I have developed for the period that I’m appointed. They all bought into that idea and are willing to push it forward.
But it will not be complete without taking along members of the fourth estate of the realm. I believe that as I try to explain what I want to do with the programme, you will understand me and know where I am coming from and how you will respond to my demands; so it’s a two-way thing. There are certain things you will demand from me; Charles, what are you doing with this programme? I am ready as always; I’m willing to give you the way forward and then the way I have designed the programme so that it will meaningfully impact the people of Niger delta.
I’m a Niger Deltan. So, for me, I am ready and willing to carry this project and ensure that those who are groomed to benefit from this programme benefits from it. I believe that with the support of the media. I will try and prove everything clear to you so that as you go home, you can also say that you’ve met this man, Charles Dokubo, and that he’s ready to deal with issues confronting the Amnesty Programme.
What do you mean by the big five?
Big five are those who helped to maintain peace and security in their areas in the Niger Delta.
Can you mention their names?
I don’t call them by their names; I see them as Niger Delta people that are interested in maintaining peace and security. They are stakeholders. They’ve been involved since the beginning of the programme and whenever there’s crisis in a particular part of the Niger Delta, we will always refer to them; they know the way to deal with it.
And they are on your side?
They are now on my side, yes.
But I wonder if those people that are supposed to enjoy the benefits of the Amnesty Programme, how happy are they? Are they happy with what’s going on?
The fact is that most of them have undergone vocational training and most of them have been empowered to set up their own businesses. Some people have been sent abroad for schooling and all that, although I’m trying to put a stop to offshore training because of the amount of money that is expended on the training of one person. If we can have those people in Nigeria, I think it will be better for us to train them in Nigeria, because I see no reason why you send somebody abroad to go and read political science in England, while most of the universities in Nigeria offer the same course. We should have qualitative education, that is the most important thing because for me, sending someone abroad to go and get a BA or B.Sc in Political Science when most Nigerian universities run political science programmes; so, why can’t they do it here? The amount of money you’re going to spend on one person going to the United Kingdom or USA for a political science degree, we can use that money to train four or five people in Nigeria. And as far as I am concerned, my first assessment of that offshore education is to keep it as a discount. Those who are there will finish; but to get new people there, that I will not like to do.