Brigadier General Paul Boroh – a retired infantry officer – took over the running of the presidential amnesty programme moments after his appointment by President Buhari to see to the speedy resolution of the problems facing the programme following the change of government and departure of the former coordinator. Gen. Boroh immediately initiated both the biometric verification and payment to the many covered by the programme.Insurgency in the north-east of the country and the Niger Delta militancy continue to pose severe economic and security challenges. The former presents real and present danger compelling current intensified Nigerian military efforts to end the insurgency in the north-east. The militancy in the Niger Delta lent itself to negotiations leading to a general amnesty but may not be exactly over yet.Before amnesty, activities of the former militants had included violence in the region from 2006 to 2009, including kidnappings and attacks on oil installations, all of which played havoc with oil production dropping from 2.5 billion barrels per day to as low as one million barrels. Sabotage of facilities including oil pipelines both on-shore and onshore, stealing of crude and the kidnapping of persons including foreign oil workers and construction employees engaged in the building of infrastructure, all made the region unsafe for security for work and building of development projects. The amnesty granted the ex-militants and subsequent rehabilitation under the Presidential Amnesty programme had turned around the fortunes of the ex-militants and brought benefits to the Nigerian economy with the restoration of peace within the region.
The fact that the programme is inching towards a close in another few months necessitates the re-examination of its impact and its future beyond this year. Previous coordinators in charge of the Presidential Amnesty programme, highly profiled helmsmen, certainly had politicized their role in implementing the programme thus far.
What would otherwise have been a purely technical programme providing for rehabilitation of former militants got over-politicised. The former leadership has been too much identified with the heavy spending on campaign fortunes of the former ruling party. This political coloration and closeness to the former government placed the otherwise well-conceived programme in awkward difficult situations resulting into crisis of its management following the change of political leadership in the country.
Considering the large scope of the programme in taking care of some 30,000 former militants, some of whom are spread in several countries engaged in academic, professional and technical training institutions with some still caught midstream in their training, it is not surprising that there had been rumbling and complaints in various quarters that there might had been abandonments of the programme itself, if not the many people covered by the programme.
Since late May this year, many of the former militants, including those studying abroad on government scholarship provided through the amnesty scheme, have complained and protested not receiving their allowances. These have raised fears in some quarters that militancy in the Niger Delta may resume. These fears may now not be justified with the recent appointment of retired Brigadier General Paul Boroh, 57, by President Buhari to take charge as the new coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty programme for ex-Niger Delta militants. General Boroh’s appointment and the fact that he hails from the Niger Delta region from Bayelsa State has been seen by observers as an attempt to put back on track the programme which had doused militancy in the oil-rich region.
Gen. Boroh’s appointment as the coordinator of the amnesty scheme has been favourably received by many stakeholders who view him as the man required to put the scheme back on right track. Others see Gen. Boroh’s management immediately taking steps to resume the implementation of the scheme such as rectifying the non-payment of outstanding allowances to ex-militants, something referred to in the statement announcing his appointment.
Boroh comes in with an impressive résumé having excelled in high profile national and international peace and conflict resolution operations. He is a former commandant of the Nigerian Army peacekeeping centre and comes highly qualified for the new job as coordinator of the amnesty programme. Given the challenges and impact of the amnesty scheme with its recorded sobering effects on security within the region and positive impact on the Nigerian economy with collateral benefits to the Gulf of Guinea region, it is compelling to come to the conclusion that the appointment of the new coordinator cannot be faulted in anyway. This is getting a square peg fitting into a square hole.
Gen. Boroh’s tenure at the amnesty programme is a test of the Buhari’s administration strategy of surmounting a possible resumption of hostilities in the Niger Delta.
• Dr. Ben Asante, Consultant and Director of Technical Operations at Ghana Gas,