Nigerian amnesty head arrested, violence threatened

27 March 2017, Week 12, Issue 732

The removal of the head of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) has triggered new threats from groups in the Niger Delta. Paul Boroh, a retired army officer, was removed from the PAP in mid-March and replaced with Charles Dokubo, an academic working at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. 

Following Boroh’s removal, and arrest on March 19, a team from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Office of the National Security Advisor (ONSA) raided his house. Following a search, they reportedly discovered US$9 million in cash, although this has been denied, both by Boroh’s wife and various EFCC representatives. 

Announcing Boroh’s dismissal, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, said the national security advisor had been directed to investigate the PAP from 2015 to now. Boroh was appointed in July 2015. 

In particular, Adesina said, the investigation should focus on “allegations of financial impropriety and other acts that are allegedly detrimental to the objectives of the [PAP]”. 

The Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, in a statement released last week following Boroh’s arrest, called for his reinstatement. Failure to do so would lead the government to “hear from us at the expiration of the four weeks ultimatum as no single stone will be left unturned as the administration prefers to go back to the recession period when Boroh played a major role by visiting the creeks with other stakeholders to prevail on the boys to drop their arms and embrace peace”. 

After four weeks has passed, the letter from Johnmark Ezonbi said, the group would carry out the “well co-ordinated destruction of all major delivery oil pipelines”. The statement also said the group was ready to spill oil in the rivers and creeks of the Niger Delta as “it is better we spill it than allow government use it to develop other parts of the country”.

Ezonbi had previously corresponded with the government over a plan to increase spending in the fight against Boko Haram. A letter from the supposed militant in December criticised the plan to spend US$1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), saying it should be matched by a similar investment in the Niger Delta. 

 

Troubled programme

A number of complaints have been made about Boroh’s leadership of the amnesty programme. The Niger Delta for Accountability and Good Governance (NDAGG) group, in February, held a protest in Yenagoa, in Bayelsa State, calling for Buhari to sack Boroh for corruption. It backed this up with a petition to the presidency. 

Complaints from NDAGG said Boroh’s failures were encouraging militancy and he was gathering wealth at the expense of the region.  

Responding to complaints at the time, Boroh said allegations that US$200 million had been embezzled were untrue and that cost saving measures had been essential, in response to the weakness of the Nigerian currency. 

In September 2016, reports emerged that a group had been sent to St Kitts and Nevis to undergo training in welding. Men involved in the programme claimed to have received no monthly stipend and to have been “abandoned”. 

Announcing Boroh’s appointment in 2015, Buhari’s spokesman Adesina said the official was expected to tackle problems such as the non-payment of allowances to former militants. The amnesty programme was created in 2009, with cash payments – and educational efforts – intended to give around 30,000 militants a reason to come out of the creeks and lay down their arms. Buhari’s administration had initially taken a tough line on the programme, cutting spending as oil prices squeezed the country’s budget. 

Boroh’s predecessor at the PAP, Kingsley Kuku, also attracted attention following his removal from the programme. Kuku left the country on his dismissal and has resisted invitations from Nigerian security agencies to return home. The Department of State Services (DSS) is said to have linked Kuku to pipeline sabotage and the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA). The DSS criticised the EFCC for shielding Kuku from its oversight. 

Edited by

Ed Reed

Editor

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