Uche Usim, Abuja
Stakeholders in the oil and gas industry and experts in economic matters are seeking for strategic and sustainable ways of ending the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) which commenced 11 years ago during the President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration.
The Stakeholders’ verdict, however, differs from a report, extracted from a 10-month research on the project, which advised the Federal Government against winding down the programme, as some of the objectives for which it was set up have not been realised.
Speaking at a virtual dialogue on PAP organised by Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) on Friday, an official of Nextier Security Peace and Development (SPD), Dr Ndu Nwokolo said that a 10-man committee looked at a four-prong transition options, since many insist that the programme, which has gulped over N500 since inception, has outlived the five-year lifespan hitherto earmarked for it.
Having advised against abrupt closure of the programme, the next option the report noted, was the devolution of PAP to federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
However, the report reckoned that if not properly managed, it may lead to diffusion and clogging the MDAs with more responsibilities when they have not successfully delivered on their original mandate.
Another option was to transform PAP into an autonomous youth programme, but advised that this strategy must address all concerns in all communities, especially underdevelopment and not just focussing on youth empowerment.
The report finally settled for devolving PAP to State Oil Development Commission where it can divest powers from the center and make the agencies of states more accountable, with more local ownership and supervision.
This option is expected to increase the derivation allocation to states from PAP resources, conduct comprehensive audit and handover of PAP activities and resources to States development agencies.
He emphasized that there was a need for the oil producing communities to have a say in how things should be done.
“It should be a job creating programme. We recommended for a partnership with private sector and civil society organisations to address the issue of capacity.
“PAP looked at numerous issues like agreement, environmental issues, marginalisation, etc”, he stated.
In his contribution at the dialogue, a stakeholder, Williams Chima, frowned at the absence of an identifiable exit plan for the project.
He suggested that some of the ex-militants already trained in various professions can be absorbed in relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies requiring their services.
“They can be absorbed into MDAs lacking experts and then we can ask the private sector to do the same. They can also work in modular refineries”, he stated.
Another contributor, Datta Amachree, recalled an earlier exit plan for PAP which sought to have over 2,000 ex-agitators go into trawler building that could be used for commercial fishing.
“It would have saved Nigeria N1.9 billion annually from stipends given to the delegates. They would have got something solid and become EU certified, meaning they could work in EU nations.
We should think of things like direct employment and not just waiting for N65,000 monthly and talking of contracts and supplies and so one”.
Since inception, PAP has reportedly been marred by corruption, lack of transparency and elite capture. It is estimated that the programme has gulped more than N500 billion from 2009 till date.
The programme gulps about N5.5 billion monthly, a development that has become an albatross on the government, yet the golden objective of getting the ex-agitators regular paid employment, has not been realised.