Public officials in the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) who are in charge of approving funds to the Presidential Amnesty Programme for repentant Niger Delta militants have come under the hammer of Menas Associates.
Menas Associates, a political risk consultancy, in its latest intelligence report on Nigeria claims that the officials also benefit from the amnesty stipends which are difficult to track or audit.
‘’There is significant evidence that the payments have become a cesspool of corruption with most of the warlords personally profiting because they do not disperse all of the funds that they are supposed to’’, the intelligence report says.
Excerpt of the report taken from Menas’ Nigeria Politics and Security says despite the thriving corruption in the system, the Federal Government cannot maintain security in the creeks if the stipends are stopped.
According to the political risk consultancy, ‘’they are largely seen in government cycles as being a small price to pay in order to maintain oil production.’’
Baring any fresh upheaval in the Niger Delta, oil sector infrastructure in the region is likely to remain safe for another year because President Muhammadu Buhari has extended the stipends paid to former militants for another year.
An emerging militants group, Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) is threatening to compound the country’s economic woes by further crippling its oil revenue. They are playing up the poor condition of living in Nigeria.
As a result, the militants are bracing for a renewed insurgency in the oil region in support of the ongoing protest against police brutality. They are promising to bomb major oil installations in the area and confront the armed security forces.
RNDA is also threatening to withdraw from the ceasefire pact with the Federal Government in order to engage troops attached to the proposed Operation Crocodile Smile, and resume attacks on some identified oil facilities in the region if issues of poor welfare, armed oppression and inequality in the standard of living between the citizens and political elites are not addressed.
However, on October 9, President Buhari read the 2021 Budget on the floor of the National Assembly and announced the provision of another ₦65 billion ($169 million) for the payments next year.
Recently there have been concerns that the government wanted to end the stipends which are used to maintain peace in the region.
Most of the funds go to the oil region’s warlords who then dispense them to their restive forces in the creeks of the Niger Delta to reduce the incentive to attack oil infrastructure in the producing regions.
In August, President Buhari fired the former head of the amnesty programme, Charles Dokubo, and replaced him with a retired Army Colonel, Milland Dikio, who says that he plans to streamline its operations and return it to its core focus.
He wants to provide entrepreneurship training to the former militants so that they become less dependent on the government stipends.
The amnesty programme was originally established to help the militants acquire new skills that will enable them to become employable or self-employed.
So far, however, this has largely not happened, and the stipends have become the main means of survival for many of the warlords and former militants.
According to the intelligence report, reversing this trend will be challenging in the weeks ahead.