Sunday 6 November 2022

PAP: The Task Ahead Of General Barry Tariye Ndiomu


Now that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Government has been magnanimous in shelving the plan to wind down the Amnesty Programme, the stage is now set for Ndiomu to perform in flying colours. It is his time to shine.

The Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) was birthed in June 2009, under the thoughtful administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. The mandate was very clear. To disarm, demoblize, and reintegrate ex-agitators back into normal productive life. Repentant militants who willfully surrendered their arms to the Federal Government, would be profiled, trained and empowered to become self-reliant, to the extent that there would be no need to return to taking up arms. 

Being that the emergence of Major General Barry Tariye Ndiomu (Rtd) as the Interim Administrator of the Amnesty Programme came at a time when the Federal Government was considering winding down the Programme, it would have been a missed opportunity for the Amnesty Office and the Niger Delta at large to benefit from his sagacity. From a realistic point of view, the Amnesty Programme has not fully lived up to its mandate. Even as thousands of ex-agitators have been disarmed, the noticeable shortfall in the process is leadership to aggresively drive rehabilitation and reintegration of the ex-agitators. General Ndiomu brings this and many more to the table. He is a complete package.

The Operation Safe Corridor (OSC), a similar rehabilitation programme for ‘repentant’ Boko Haram terrorists in the Northeast is still up and running. Although it seemed like a path to peace, the OSC which was initiated in 2016, has not brought relative peace to the Northeast when compared to the impact of the Amnesty Programme in the Niger Delta which largely succeeded in calming fraying nerves. Stakeholders had strongly advocated for restrategizing and sustaining of the Programme to improve upon the successes recorded. Thus, terminating the Programme would have sparked another round of unrest in the region.

It is on record that at a time when tensions were high over corruption that rattled the Amnesty Programme and ex-agitators became disenchanted, former President Jonathan reportedly advised the then Amnesty boss- Col Milland Dixon Dikio that: “One thing I should tell you is that you should not bite more than you can chew as the saying goes. You should accommodate the projects which you think you can effectively carry out with your budget.”

The Task Ahead For General Ndiomu

Now that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Government has been magnanimous in shelving the plan to wind down the Amnesty Programme, the stage is now set for Ndiomu to perform in flying colours. It is his time to shine. Buhari’s gesture was sequel wide consultations between Ndiomu and ex-agitators accross the Niger Delta, and then subsequent feedback to the Government. The Government is now determined more than ever before, to ensure that the Programme is re-engineered towards ensuring that its original mandate is fully realised culminating in a gradual phased winding down in the near future.

Interestingly, if the current administration had not back-tracked on its plan to wind down the Amnesty Programme, it would have gone down the annals of history, that Yar’ Adua a Fulani man from Katsina initiated the Programme, and then Buhari, another Fulani man from Katsina, terminated it. Trust Nigerians, many would have attached cultural sentiments to it.

The computation made by the National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno in 2020 that the Presidential Amnesty Programme’s fund totalling N712 billion released since its creation could not be accounted for, is another reason to make a case for better leadership and management. The rot in the Amnesty Office and the Federal Government’s earlier intention to wind down, shows clearly that the General has a herculean task ahead.

Over the years, a lot of people have fed fat from the Presidential Amnesty Programme, many of whom are called ‘billionaires’ today. Sadly, majority of the main agitators who battled in the creeks, are not part of this ‘billionaires’ clique. The Amnesty Programme has made a lot of business owners billionaires, but majority of the ex-agitators are still trying to find sustainable livelihoods. Corruption is now fighting back. The reason why sponsored groups are blackmailing the General is because he came on board to stop their ‘business as usual’. But he must not renege on his quest to put the Amnesty Programme back on the path of righteousness.

Part of his focus is also to make the Federal Government see reasons why the Amnesty Programme should be redesigned as a Social Investment Programme, rather than winding it down totally, due to the outcome of stakeholders engagement. This, he has succeeded in doing already.

Arguably, the Amnesty Programme has not created much value in terms of employment and engagement of the trained ex-agitators. There are massive projects and investments that have been carried out in the Niger Delta, especially in the Oil and Gas industry, but with little or no strategic measures to engage these trained ex-agitators. In the course of the Programme, scholarships were given to hundreds of non-indigenes of the Niger Delta region.

Another thrust of thought is that in Nigeria’s Northeast Development Commission, one would hardly find any Niger Deltan working there. But in the Presidential Amnesty Office, non-Niger Deltans, including those from the north, hold sensitive positions.

In May this year, Nigeria saw its crude production plunge to its lowest level in more than 30 years to 1.23 million b/d, according to estimates by S&P Global Commodity Insights. Aside some operational and technical factors, sabotage and oil theft was largely responsible for the shortfall. Key oil fields and terminals across the Niger Delta has been hit by a resurgence in attacks on critical oil infrastructures.

The estimates added that Nigeria alongside Angola, are not expected to be able to meet their current OPEC quotas “for at least another year, having produced almost 300,000 b/d less than their combined quotas throughout 2021.” According to Platts Analytics, Nigeria’s crude production is not expected to reach much more than 1.51 million b/d in 2023 and could dip lower by the end of next year.

His Early Impact At The Amnesty Office

Like Robert Kiyosaki rightly noted, “Without great leadership, mission and a team that deliver results at a high level, even the best product won’t make a company successful!”. Upon assumption of office, the General met over N90bn debt on ground. He also inherited a N4.5bn debt owed to contractors, which he swiftly renegotiated down to the tune of N1.3bn, thereby saving costs for the Federal Government. This is precision leadership with a deliberate intent to right the many wrongs in the Amnesty Programme.

Structurally, the Amnesty Programme is designed to run in three phases- Training, Empowerment and Engagement, after which the beneficiaries are expected to exit. Sadly, the 30,000 figure of beneficiaries captured since inception is not reducing, it is rather swelling. This formed a mickle part of why the Presidency was uncomfortable with the Programme. The Government had raised eyebrows that the Programme which was established with 30,000 ex-agitators still runs with the same number, even after billions of Naira have been spent on training and reintegration programmes.

In a deliberate move to tackle this, General Ndiomu’s earliest efforts since assuming office has beaten down the 30,000 ex-agitators list by over 1,900 persons. This would further save cost for Federal Government, as these dismissed persons will no long be under payroll for the N65,000 or so monthly stipend.

Another permutation is that if Tompolo, NNPC Ltd and other stakeholders had leveraged on the 30,000 ex-agitators to secure manpower to execute the Pipeline Surveillance Contract, it would have reduced the number of untrained ex-agitators, and would have been a win-win situation. The numbers will be trimmed down, just as more value would have been created for the Federal Government. Many have also imagined that the Federal Government considers Tomplolo’s Pipeline Protection Contract as a tenable excuse to end the Amnesty Programme.

His Track Record

General Ndiomu’s military training and track records in the Army, especially in terms of churning out positive results in assignments given to him, was top notch. No doubt, this must have triggered President Buhari to appoint him at this critical time as the Interim Administrator of the Amnesty Programme.

An indigene of Odoni in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Ndiomu was admitted to the Nigerian Defence Academy as part of 29th Regular Combatant Course, and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in 1983.

His service was meritorious as the Garrison Commander, Nigerian Army Headquarters and at various times, he was the Chief of Training and Operations, besides other command and staff appointments he held in the course of his successful military career before retiring in December 2017.

He is also a trained lawyer, and an alumnus of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, Badagry, Harvard Kennedy School, and George C Marshall Centre for European Security Studies, among others.

“Under my watch, we shall place premium on transparency, accountability, and hard work; there shall be a clear departure from the past trajectory to a purposeful, result-oriented administration.

“We shall equally embark on reorientation, training, and empowerment of the ex-agitators in line with the present realities of the nation.

“It is my desire to uphold the sanctity of the core values for the establishment of the Amnesty Programme that borders on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration, which form the tripod upon which the Programme presently stands,” the General pledged when he took over as Interim Administrator of the Amnesty Programme.

The Succes Story Of The ‘Big Five’

The success story of the Amnesty Programme in ending militancy was huge. The Programme was able to capture and assimilate ‘the big 5’. These were the ex-warlords under the defunct Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) who led the resistance in the creeks. Majority of them are now engaged in productive ventures and are self-reliant.

Tompolo- real name Government Ekpempolo who embraced the amnesty offer of the Federal Government on October 4, 2009, now owns Tantita Security Services. The firm has been engaged in series of maritime deals with the Federal Government, the latest being a N4.5bn monthly Pipeline Surveillance Contract across the Niger Delta. In just a few months of the surveillance deal, Tompolo has made heart-wrenching exposures of oil theft across the Niger Delta.

Similarly, Ebikabowei Victor-Ben, nicknamed ‘Boyloaf’, a former MEND commander, currently runs his own business. He owns Bensam Maritime Oil & Gas Ltd., which does subcontracting work for Shell and Chevron. In March this year, he listed 40 students as beneficiaries of a scholarship scheme offered by his new foundation, the Boyloaf Foundation.

There is also Chief Ajube Bibopiri, aka ‘Shoot-at-Sight’. Despite his limited educational background, he rose above the challenges in the Niger Delta region to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs among his peers. He and many of his men rejected the N65,000 monthly stipend and chose the path of an entrepreneur. He floated a company called Bradama International. He has since trained many of his boys, mentored and employed them. Bradama has become a brand in the Oil and Gas servicing industry.

A successful businessman, King Ateke Tom was on November 25, 2017, crowned as the first Amanyanabo of Okochiri, Okirika, Rivers State. Like the others, he also runs successful private businesses.

Hon. Fara Dagogo who is now a Federal lawmaker representing Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency of Rivers State in the National Assembly, was a former MEND field commander. He was also a Governorship aspirant in Rivers State. Prior to this, he served as a lawmaker in the Rivers State House of Representatives where he sponsored high impact bills and motions.

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