Untangling the dependencies that prevent it ending
Initiated in June 2009, the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) has become an enduring institution. Initially it was conceived as a short-term mechanism for de-escalating and defusing the militant insurgency that destabilised the oil-rich Niger Delta over the preceding decade, and was also designed to achieve broader socioeconomic and stabilisation objectives. Its approach is to reintegrate agitators via trainings, further education, job placements, and business startup support, and pay a monthly social support stipend until they graduate the PAP. However, mismanagement enables elites to divert annual budget allocations into private pockets, compromising the quality of delivery so much that participants fail to graduate, and it must continue running. Lucrative and durable, the PAP has created complex and stubborn financial dependencies—both for elites and its lowliest beneficiaries.
This report explores the inner workings and patronage functions of the PAP in the context of its beneficiaries, to highlight an important consideration in the design of a realistic and effective exit strategy.
- Increase transparency and accountability. The PAP budget, contracts, internal processes,and beneficiary records fail to meet the most basic transparency standards. The PAP should be subjected to increased financial and administrative scrutiny by the relevant National Assembly committees and the Auditor-General of the Federation. It should also be subjected to a preventative ‘systems study’ by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
- Strengthen oversight. Any improvements to the performance and strategic direction of the PAP will be predicated on close and sustained scrutiny by the president. In the midst of grand corruption allegations, there should also be additional levels of oversight, possibly by a relevant committee in the National Assembly. Leadership from above must also engage the parasitic political elites to detach their dependencies on the PAP and ex-agitators.
- Improve training strategy, coordination and needs assessments. The PAP should constitute a strategic advisory board composed of knowledgeable technocrats, reputable civil society actors, representatives of the beneficiaries, and other stakeholders in the region. This board could provide valuable advice and strategic direction to the PAP coordinator, as well as independent evaluations of its training programmes.
- Reduce leaders’ mega-stipends. The PAP should sunset the multi-million-naira stipends provided to ex-agitator leaders and use the funds to marginally increase the monthly stipends given to low-level beneficiaries. It should also work with banks and leaders to end the ‘kangaroo’ arrangements by which leaders continue to deduct a portion of their followers’ monthly stipends. • Discourage the use of ex-agitators as political thugs. PAP officials, as well as federal, state and local politicians, must work toward a de-escalation of violence and criminal activity in the region by refraining from using ex-agitators as political thugs. Stipend payments or contract awards should not be predicated on ex-agitators’ partisan loyalties.
- Create exit strategies for beneficiaries. PAP beneficiaries should be provided with a realistic pathway away from dependence on their monthly stipend. For example, beneficiaries should be able to claim seed money for a start-up business—equivalent, perhaps, to multiple years’ worth of stipends—in exchange for deregistering from the PAP. Awarding such ‘off-ramp grants’ could be based on beneficiaries developing a business plan, or achieving certain qualifications.
- Seek support from international development partners. The PAP is one of the only DDR programmes worldwide that was designed and implemented by the national government without external support. But now is the time to seek support from international development partners in Nigeria, who can support the design and delivery of alternative sustainable livelihood programmes for beneficiaries as they transition to a life post-PAP.
Published 03. 09. 2021