OUR attention has been drawn to an editorial of Vanguard Newspaper titled ‘Curbing Corruption in the Amnesty Programme’ and published on Tuesday, July 17, 2018.
The glaringly uninformed content of the editorial presented as facts to the public, stated that the incumbent Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, Prof. Charles Dokubo, has been in office for a period of almost one year, following the sack of his predecessor, General Paul Boroh (retd) on March 13, 2017 for alleged corruption.
It noted that despite Dokubo’s open anti-corruption stance, committees he set up to evaluate all the sectors of the Amnesty Programme still discovered that only 314 out of 1,061 students slated to participate in educational programmes for the 2017/2018 session were actually found in the database of the Amnesty Programme.
Therefore, the newspaper concluded that the rank and file of the staff of the Amnesty Office under Dokubo is neck-deep in corruption since the discovery of “this tranche of ghost participants simply means that corruption in the establishment goes beyond its Chief Executive Officers”.
The Amnesty Office would have ignored the editorial which is patently misleading and a malicious display of uninformed commentary, but for the fact that it is the opinion of Vanguard, a respected newspaper which ought to be a shining light in informed commentary. The editorial is a misrepresentation of facts and baseless insinuations which stands truth on its head.
First, Prof. Charles Dokubo was appointed Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme on March 13, 2018. This is barely three months ago, contrary to a period almost one year as stated in the editorial.
Secondly, following alarming invoices sent by some universities in the country to the Amnesty Office for payment of tuition fees and allowances for students purportedly deployed to the institutions to undergo various educational programmes for the 2017/2018 academic session, Prof. Dokubo decided to set up a committee to conduct a verification exercise.
The committee was mandated amongst others, to ascertain how 1,061 students were deployed to various institutions; whether they are beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, and if their deployment followed due process. It was this committee that uncovered the fraud.
It is pertinent to note that the deployment was made in March 2018, and the committee discovered that a former Head of Education in the Amnesty Office, Major HK Mowarin (retd), perpetrated the deployments without authorisation during the period General Paul Boroh was handing over to his successor. Mowarin has since been sacked and investigation on the committee’s report is ongoing in the Office of the National Security Adviser, NSA. Therefore, the “massive fraud and irregularities that characterised deployment of Amnesty beneficiaries to Nigerian universities for the 2017/2018 academic session” as stated in the Vanguard editorial, was not perpetrated by the present crop of staff in the Amnesty Office under Prof. Dokubo.
Earlier on assumption of office, Prof. Dokubo had on April 4, 2018, constituted a committee headed by a seasoned university teacher, Prof. Ayebaemi I. Spiff, to marshal a work plan to guide him in retooling the Amnesty Programme to align with the aspiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and to make the Amnesty Programme more impactful to the direct beneficiaries, the ex-agitators and the people of Niger Delta.
Reinvigoration of personnel at the Amnesty Office was one of the recommendations of the committee which was accepted and implemented by Dokubo with precision. Presently, majority of the staff of the Amnesty Office are fresh blood injected into the system pursuant to his anti-corruption stance.
It is, therefore, preposterous, wicked and malicious to allege that “the rank and file of the staff of the Amnesty Office under Dokubo is neck-deep in corruption since the discovery of this tranche of ghost participants simply means that corruption in the establishment goes beyond its Chief Executive Officers.”
Prof. Dokubo is focused on delivering on key areas of the Amnesty Programme which he has set as priority, including sanitization of the Education Department of the Amnesty Office to make it more impactful and cost effective, and restoration of the certainty and sanctity of the database of the Presidential Amnesty Programme by putting strong measures in place to deter and forestall future breaches.
He is also working assiduously towards the completion and activation of all the Vocational Training Centres under construction by the Amnesty Office across the states in the Niger Delta to fast-track the training of several beneficiaries awaiting skills acquisition and the empowerment, through the provision of start-up packs and mentoring, for already trained and qualified ex-agitators to become entrepreneurs.
The Amnesty Office emphasizes that Prof. Charles Dokubo has zero tolerance for corruption and welcomes constructive, responsible criticism. However, he does not need distractions, but support to achieve his lofty dream for beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme and people of Niger Delta.
Ganagana is Special Assistant (Media) to Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Amnesty Programme
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