By Ebi Dressman

Since independence in 1960, insecurity has been a feature of the Nigerian State as conflicts in different parts of the country continued to make life insecure.

In the Niger Delta, violence was once the bane of the region where conflicts occurred for over some decades. Beginning from the pre-colonial period, the region witnessed a series of conflicts, which had their roots, initially in the protest against injustice, and in recent years, it digress to the quest for resource control. All efforts to resolve conflict in the region failed until 2009 when amnesty was declared by the Yar’adua led administration and some form of uneasy peace prevailed. However, 8 years down the lane, there is a relative peace in the region and effort is once again geared towards finding lasting peace. This opinion assesses the efforts been made by Prof Charles Dokubo led Niger Delta Amnesty Program to address conflicts in and finding a lasting solution to peace in the region.

Further findings about the program shows that the present leadership approach to resolving conflict in the region has quite been successful because it has addressed some of the issues that gave rise to the conflict in the region.

There is a new dawn in the Niger Delta region, there is also a hope of sustainable peace in the region propelled by Prof. Dokubo’s passion for work and commitment.

Today, there is a ray of hope in the programme, characterized by fresh initiatives and events that has put smiles on the faces of not only the beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme, but on the whole Niger Delta region at large.

For close watchers of activities at the Amnesty Office, the Rivers State-born erudite professor of international repute and nuclear scientist has recorded tremendous achievements within this short period was not surprising as he has piloted the Amnesty Programme on full gear.

On assumption of office in March 2018, he engaged critical stakeholders in the region in a consultative meetings geared towards deepening peace in the once a volatile region. Apart from key leaders of ex-agitators, he also met with several Niger Delta elders and stakeholders. Among critical stakeholders who attended some of the meetings were Chief Bibopre Ajube, aka General Shoot-at-Sight; Dr. Ebikabowei Victor Ben, alias Boyloaf, and a representative of HRH Ateke Tom and representatives of other frontline leaders of ex-agitators in the Niger Delta region including that of Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo.

In June 7, 2018, he also met with over 30 of the Phase One leaders of Niger Delta ex-agitators in Abuja in furtherance of his peace efforts, and parleyed 70 others of the Phase Two and Three leaders. He also hosted the leadership of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and visited a former Federal Commissioner for Information and respected Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, in his determination to deepen sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region.

As a first step after mounting the saddle of leadership, he constituted a committee headed by a university lecturer, Prof. Ayibaemi Spiff, to review operations of the Programme. And part of the findings of the committee was that while the Amnesty Office had undertaken the construction of five Vocational Training/Reintegration Centres across the various Niger Delta states, two of the centres in Ondo and Bayelsa States were in a near completion, had been activated for the training of thousands of beneficiaries enrolled on the Programme that are yet to be skilled due to the failure of the past leadership of the Amnesty Office to pay in full the contract sums, lack of proper supervision and demand for variation by some of the contractors.

Interestingly, out of the 30,000 beneficiaries enlisted in the Presidential Amnesty Programme, 11,297 persons were yet to be placed in either vocational training facilities or deployed for formal education as of when Dokubo assumed office.

But when he took over the mantle of leadership, he has completed, equipped and activated the Oil and Gas Vocational Training Centre at Agadagba-Obon, Ondo State, and also commissioned the Basic Skills Vocational Training Centre at Boro Town, Bayelsa State before hoodlums stormed the center and carted away various training equipmentS worth billions of naira. To fast track the training of the several beneficiaries awaiting skills acquisition, Prof. Dokubo performed a foundation laying ceremony for an Agricultural Vocational Training Centre in Gelegele, Edo State on Friday, February 15, just as he has intensified efforts to complete a Power and Energy Vocational Training Centre located at Bomadi, Delta State, and the Maritime Vocational Training Centre at Oboama, Rivers State.

So far, a total of 1, 401 beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme have been trained in various skills between March 13, 2018 when he assumed office to date.

Cognizant of the fact that the success of the Reintegration component of the Amnesty Programme depended largely on the Re-insertion part of it which entails aiding processes of returning already trained ex-agitators to civil society, Dokubo has taken bold steps on empowerment, through the provision of start-up packs and mentoring for several already trained and qualified ex-agitators to become entrepreneurs. In this regard, 1,165 already trained beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme were empowered in various trade areas within his this period he’s been in office.

In the area of education, 1,230 beneficiaries of the Programme were offered scholarship and deployed in 11 partnering institutions within the country between January 30 and 31, 2019, while about 35 were deployed to various institutions of offshore. 207 students spread across 66 institutions in 20 countries are currently studying various courses.

On Thursday, July 19, 2018, he visited students sponsored by the Amnesty Programme in London and met with 47 students and recent graduates from 25 institutions in the UK at the Nigeria High Commission. The objective of the visit was to enable him evaluate the students’ academic progress, celebrate those completing their programmes and charge the remaining ones to be good ambassadors of the Programme.

Determined to facilitate job placement for beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme, Prof. Dokubo created a Job Placement and International Development Partners Engagement Unit (JPIDPEU) on May 2, 2018. So far, the unit profiled 28 delegates for underwater welding jobs in oil servicing companies; 100 delegates for civil service jobs and 10 delegates for aviation crop spray pilot jobs. It also concluded profiling of 25 delegates for catering services, hotel and fast food jobs and 75 delegates for other job opportunities. This and more has been one of the major action plan of the Post Training Engagement and Job Placement units been envisaged by the present leadership of the program. Besides, a DFID funded project to MADE (Market Development in the Niger Delta), also sponsored a training for trainers programme for 20 delegates of the Amnesty Programme in Agricultural Extension.

Just recently, the Director General National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Moji Adeyeye granted approval for the Amnesty Programme to use 23 Technology Incubation centres allocated to the office by National Board for Technology Incubation (NBTI) for cluster manufacturing by beneficiaries of the Programme. The centres would be used by delegates to produce their products for the purpose of obtaining NAFDAC Registration numbers. The delegates have been trained on production of rice, garri, plantain-flour, plantain-chips, chinchin, smoked fish, chicken, snail and fruit juice production, among others.

On his path to charting a new course for the Amnesty Programme, Dokubo has surmounted several obstacles by sheer determination. And the tonic required to motive him is the support and encouragement from critical stakeholders.

For Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Peter Nwabushi who spoke at the commissioning of the Oil and Gas Basic Skills Vocational Training Centre, Agadagba-Obon, Ese Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State, said Dokubo deserve commendation for his prudent management of funds allocated to the Amnesty Programme and his transparency.

In his words:

“The Presidential Amnesty Programme which was established in the year 2009 has had four chief executives as Special Advisers/Coordinators. Of all the four, I can confidently say that the present Coordinator has been very proactive and eager to realize the mandate of the Programme. In his short time in office, he has really demonstrated capacity to transform the Niger Delta region for sustainable development. Our committee is very pleased with his efforts; he is a square peg in a square hole”.

While the Director of Research at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Plateau State, Prof. Habu Galadima says Dokubo has provided the needed strategic leadership towards actualizing the objectives of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, the ruling All Progressive Party (APC) gave him kudos for deepening peace and stabilizing peace in the Niger Delta region.

In a letter of commendation signed by its national secretary, Mai Mala Buni, the APC applauded Dokubo’s efforts at ensuring development in the oil-rich region. It said the positive transformation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme was in line with the Change Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration.

But for Dokubo, the glory goes to the Almighty God and to President Buhari who has been a pillar of support for the people of Niger Delta.

“Let me place on record that we are able to achieve all these because of the staunch and unalloyed support President Muhammadu Buhari has been giving the Amnesty Programme and the Niger Delta as a whole. On his fatherly watch, we have since re-worked the Programme to focus on not just training but also job creation and empowerment of already trained beneficiaries. I can confirm to all stakeholders gathered here today that President Buhari loves the Niger Delta and its people”, he assured.

Prof Charles Dokubo leadership in the Amnesty Office has created the needed sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region and he deserve the support of the larger Niger Delta society for the continued sustenance of this recorded peace in order to drive home infrastructural development in the region.

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