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Prof. Charles Dokubo, Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) was a guest at News Agency of Nigeria, NAN Forum last Wednesday. He used the occasion to speak on various issues concerning the Presidential Amnesty Programme, the challenges he inherited in office as well as the welfare of Niger Delta Ex-agitators among others. Read below some of the soundbites on the issues as addressed by Professor Dokubo at the NAN Forum.
- “I came to an office that has been mainly dysfunctional, but I’m trying to put things together in such a way that it could attain the height that has been set for it. It is not easy, there are a lot of challenges on the way, but we believe that with the collaboration of agencies like NAN and the dedicated staff we have in the office now, we can always meet the goal that we set for ourselves. My objective and mission after my appointment is to move the organisation out of demobilisation to reintegration.’’
- “Training and retraining of beneficiaries of the programme will be accorded top priority. I believe that if arrangement can be made with various organisations on how to accommodate some of these trained ex-agitators, they could be taken up to assist the amnesty programme and also work to earn a living.”
- “I came into the office at a period when they have done most of the demobilisation of the programme, so what the organisation was facing was the reintegration aspect of it. That is my motive and my drive for the programme; how do we reintegrate those who have been trained and empowered? How do they get job to do, so that they could fit into the system and could contest for job in whatever situation they find themselves?”
- “Immediately, I was appointed, I set up a committee to review the amnesty programme and from there, we have seen shortcomings and challenges, these are the issues that I’m addressing, especially training and retraining. And also cutting out waste from the programme, the programme was somehow unwinding, but I’m trying to put everything into perspective. I’m trying to run it in such a way that it is effective and efficient and that it goes directly to those who are supposed to get the benefit of this programme.
- “We have a record in our office on those who are on stipends, others went into the programme through the back door. If I identify those who came in through the back door, most times I don’t pay them because it is eating deep into the budget that you were not part of. So, I don’t pay. Although sometimes I have a conscience because I say (to myself that) these people are Niger Deltans, how can we send our children out into the streets. But we have to look at a way we can manage it so it does not eat deep into our budget and yet manage them because they are from Niger Delta”
- “There is also that idea of after your first degree you want to continue to do a Masters’ degree while you were just sent there to do a first degree, you go and register yourself and then go on protesting that the amnesty is not paying you your money… amnesty cannot send students (to school) and refuse to pay their school fees. People claim that they have not been paid and all that, but if you check the records we pay.
- “If you have been empowered, given a job and been trained, you have to disengage from the programmme.”
- “I set up a committee to look into the organisation when I just took office. They made recommendations, they have seen where there were loopholes and also where there were deep holes. So definitely these holes have been closed, I cannot go into how it happened and all that. But this committee I set up made it possible for me to close such holes. You know when you come into a place if you do not look at if carefully before you start doing things you also will also be trouble and then that office is a very dangerous office.”
- “We have seen shortcomings and challenges, these are the issues that I’m addressing, especially training and retraining. And also cutting out waste from the programme, the programme was somehow unwinding, but I’m trying to put everything into perspective. I’m trying to run it in such a way that it is effective and efficient and that it goes directly to those who are supposed to get the benefit of this programme.”
- “For those who want to come anew into the programme, it is not in my power to admit them unless Mr President gives the order because they are not part of the budget that has been passed for us. So, the President must make a declaration. We have phases one, two and three. Phase one is the initial Presidential declaration, phase two also was Presidential order and even phase three.”
- “There is no date for terminating this programme and I will not advise any government to cut it off because of the achievements it has recorded. There is peace in the Niger Delta, there is human security and it impacts positively on the people.”
- “why I am concerned about offshore training because the money we will spend on one person, we can spend on 10 people in Nigeria; only specific courses like pilots, aircraft maintenance that I can look at.”
- “What I did in the first two months, I called the critical stakeholders in the region especially those ex- militants and their group leaders to hold a meeting with them in Lagos. To tell them the purpose of my appointment and to see how we can drive this programme and to maintain the security that we already have and all of them bought into my own plan. After that I met with the fields commanders, phase one, two, three commanders in Abuja here and they also bought into my own plan. The most important thing is to talk to them, to relate with them, understand and feel their pulse so that you can know exactly what they want and this is exactly what they want and this is what I did.”
- “My advice has always been that if the environment is secure, it is also secure for all of us. Also, if you go on bursting pipes and all that, that environment which you say you are protecting is going to create a problem for people who are staying there, even for children yet unborn. I put it before them; it is not just about going to burst pipes because the pipes are not in Kaduna, the pipes are in your place and that is the place where your fishing and farming will be disturbed.”