Babagana Monguno, national security adviser, says N712 billion was wasted and unaccounted for under the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme (NDAP).
Monguno disclosed this on Friday when Milland Dikio, interim coordinator of the programme, paid President Muhammadu Buhari a visit in Abuja.
The presidential amnesty programme was set up in 2009 by the federal government during the tenure of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and it was focused on the disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) of ex-militants in the region.
But Monguno said the programme has been “turned upside down”, adding that it is reeling with corruption.
According to him, NDAP cannot account for the sum of N712 billion.
He explained that as a palliatory incentive, the programme is not supposed to run without end lest it becomes a burden on the government.
“The predatory instincts of certain individuals came into the fore and the programme was turned upside down and as a result of this, like the administrator has just said, there was a lot of corruption, waste, mismanagement within this period. N712 billion was wasted, basically unaccounted for, and this is due to so many issues — corruption being at the fore,” Monguno said.
“Now, we realised that if the focus of the people who are supposed to drive this programme is to capsize the programme by allowing their own personal interest to come in, then we are all going to be in trouble because if the Niger Delta is in trouble, consequently, it will extend to the rest of the federation.
“Therefore, I had to take this step to advise Mr President that this waste cannot go on. This programme is not supposed to be an open-ended programme; there is no place on the surface of this earth where programmes that are supposed to be palliatory will continue forever, at the end of the day becoming a big problem and entanglement for the government.
“Therefore, we decided to take immediate action by bringing in someone who can take a deep look at these programmes, what resulted to it being flawed — a person with vast experience and we all know the experience of Colonel Dikio in this type of issue.”
Addressing reporters, Dikio said the programme, which was meant to train and rehabilitate ex-agitators, has been “derailed from its original focus by endemic corruption”.
He pointed out that the NDAP owes contractors over N71 billion, adding that the current structure cannot be sustained.
He noted that the issues surrounding NDAP informed the president’s decision to overhaul the programme.
“Immediately after the disarmament phase, challenges including endemic corruption cropped in and derailed the programme,” Dikio said.
“Lack of enough funds and corruption were blamed for impeding the effective operationalisation of the programme.
“Regrettably, the programme has now been running for 11 years without the desired benefits delivered to the ex-agitators.
“Rather, the ex-agitator database was dishonestly corrupted, and several contracts were awarded in total disregard of need and procurement processes.
“Consequently, the programme is currently owing contractors the sum of N71,411,646,210.68. This informed Mr. President’s decision to overhaul the programme, aimed at ensuring that the dividends of the amnesty programme reaches its original target beneficiaries.
“Reports have shown that not much progress has been recorded in some aspects of the demobilisation and reintegration components of the programme. To address this, the need to focus on education and vocational training in ways that the benefits are channeled through a transparent, accountable, corrupt-free and institutionalised process is imperative.
“The programme as currently structured is not sustainable and cannot deliver the desired long-term benefit to the region and the country.
“Consistent with the strategic objectives of the federal government, the vision of the administrator is to refocus the amnesty programme to its original mandate of development and security of the Niger Delta region.”
In August, Edwin Clark, elder statesman and leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), warned the federal government against scrapping the programme which was originally designed to run for five years.
Clark said scrapping the programme will amount to trouble, and that it will affect the “fragile peace” in the region.