‘Allegation Of Graft In The Amnesty Office Unfounded’
When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on May 29, 2015, he made a commitment to continue with the Presidential Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government in the Niger Delta region. The President has kept to his word so far. However, many Nigerians were taken aback recently, given the anti-corruption stance of the Buhari administration, when it was alleged that the new Coordinator of the programme, Brig-Gen. Paul Boro (rtd), spent N48 billion in less than five months in office.
The allegation notwithstanding, the Chairman, Niger Delta Nationalities Forum, Seigha Manager, who spoke with The Guardian in an interview, believes that Boro is doing a good job in the Amnesty Office.
“From a very close observation, I will say that Boro is doing well, at least, in two areas. One, he has come to sanitise the system because at some points, the former Coordinator, Kingsley Kuku, though not a bad person, was overwhelmed by some insider activities. Certain things were not properly done. Some people who had been captured were not benefitting. Few other people who were not directly involved in the amnesty programme became the beneficiaries. At some point, it became a case of those whom he knew and those that he wanted to empower. The amnesty programme was losing focus at some point but the coming of Boro has streamlined the activities of the amnesty programme. He has gone back to the data and identified about 12,000 of such people who were initially captured but were not taken along. With the pedigree of a former military officer, some of the ex-agitators have also taken caution in dealing with him unlike Kuku’s time when some would even go to the office and threaten to fight,” Seigha observed.
He noted that the other area where Boro has also done well “is that unlike Kuku who was directly in charge of everything and was reporting directly to the President as it were, Boro works directly under the National Security Adviser (NSA).”
He explains: “The difference is that while Kuku could spend any amount of money to do whatever he wanted because he was directly in charge, the present coordinator cannot do so. Whatever he does in the amnesty office today must have recourse to the NSA. That, in itself, has opened up the system much more than before.
“The allegation that he came and spent N48 billion in less than five months is completely untrue. I do go there and I have brothers that are working there. I was one of the media aides to the Media Coordinator, Dr Koripamo Agary, to the Presidential Amnesty Panel between 2009 and 2010. We were the pioneer members in that place, so, I am a stakeholder and I know what is going on there.
“Remember that when Kuku left, there was an interregnum of about five months before Boro came in, so, there was a pile up of school fees as well as stipends that have not been paid. So, he had to clear the whole of those debts in those five months and it took a lot of money – about N17 billion in the first batch and then N10 billion in another batch. All those monies were paid to ex-agitators in South Africa, Britain, U.S. and other countries and some of those who were feeding fat and enjoying themselves were also told to go. Such people are not very happy with the new coordinator having come to streamline activities in the place. They could be instrumental to that allegation that he has wasted N48 billion in five months. He reports directly to the NSA and gets approval before he spends any kobo, so, he could not have even mismanaged N10. There is no such room. So, the allegation was merely to smear his name.”
Seigha also gave kudos to Boro for introducing an exit point for the beneficiaries of the programme. He said: “Out of about 30, 000 that were captured, none had exited. But with Boro’s coming, he has adopted a strategy whereby 3, 232 will be exiting sometime this year. And from my close facts in the office, government will get back over N2 billion from the 3, 232 that will be exiting. I hear that he will do the same thing next year. So, that is a huge fund that he has been able to save back for the government. So, for being able to come up with an exit strategy, he has done objectively well and better and I encourage him to continue to do that.”
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