Niger Delta

Two Sacked In One Week: Moment Of Reflection For Niger Delta Stakeholders


Had the casualties not been bona fide in-digenes of the Niger Delta, this sustained sequence of happenings would certainly have kicked open many windows of arguments and interpretations, or even sparked violent protestations. But like others before them in no less strategic position and enviable pedigree, they are both from within. Worse perhaps is the fact that most, if not all their predecessors, may have walked the same culdesac as if it were some transmissible, intractable and inescapable epidemic of the magnetic rich delta.

Beyond recent happenings, we need no corroborative statistics to worrisomely conclude that this downtrodden dollar-spinning oil fountain that the Niger Delta is has recorded embarrassing cyclical sacks and replacements of top-class managers in controversial circumstances in no comparison with any other regions of the country, especially in the President Buhari’s administration.

Barely a week following the sudden sack on Wednesday, February 19, 2019 of the former Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dr. Joi Nunieh Yemebe, for what one source attributed largely to “her stubbornness and audacious contention with the powers”, President Buhari again descended heavily with an hammer on another egghead from the region, this time the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Professor Charles Quaker Dokubo. That was on Friday, February 28, 2020.

Whereas Aso Rock was unsurprisingly silent about the reason for Dr. Nunieh’s sack, it chose to adopt a different approach in the case of Prof. Dokubo. Although the statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, over the matter had courteously used the word “suspended” as a euphemism in communicating the removal of Prof. Dokubo, the release however stated that the President had ordered his suspension based on recommendations by a special committee set up by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Munguno, under whose umbrella PAP is, and “numerous allegations and petitions”.

Incidentally, both Dr. Joi Nunieh and Prof. Charles Dokubo hail from the same State of Rivers: The former, a lawyer and daughter of a former Senator, Gbene Cyrus Ninieh, comes from Nyokhana, in Khana Local Government Area, heart of late Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Ogoniland; the latter, of the Kalabari tribe in Abonnema, Akuku Toru Local Government Area.

Nunieh was a beneficiary of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC set up by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio on Tuesday, October 29, 2019; but she resumed full duties as Acting Managing Director of the NDDC on October 30, 2019 when Dr. Akwagaga Enyia officially handed over. Until one was taken from him in 2019, Professor Charles Dokubo came into office previously in the dual capacity of Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of The Presidential Amnesty Programme on March 13, 2018, and was sacked just one month to full two years in that office.

Even though the President, as always, may have and reserves the real reasons for his action than what the public is fed with, the sacking of the duo in a matter of days fittingly captures what could best be described as “double blow” to the Niger Delta. This should be enough reason for deep contemplation by the pliant and unpredictable stakeholders of the Niger Delta, beyond their empty angst and gimmicks on the pages of newspapers.

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The Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) commenced on Thursday, July 11, 2009, when the Federal Government under late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua granted unconditional amnesty to repentant ex-militants from the Niger Delta. They were given a period of 60 days to surrender their weapons and selves as a stop-gap machinery towards finding lasting solutions to the untoward security situation in the region.

Before Prof. Dokubo, there had been four others who manned that office, namely, Brig. Gen. P. T. Boroh (Sagbama LGA, Bayelsa State; appointed July 2015 –March 2018) and Hon. Kingsley Kemebradigha (Arogbo LGA, Ondo State; appointed January 2011 – July 2015). The other two were Mr. Timi Alaibe (Opukuma, Bayelsa State, appointed in 2010); and Major Gen. Godwin O. Abbe (Benin City, Edo State; appointed 2009 -2010) as pioneer in the ranks.

To prove that the burden and destiny of the Niger Delta have become like the proverbial albatross on the shoulders of Niger Deltans, the President discreetly appointed Professor of Strategic Studies, Kemebrandikumo Daniel Pondei, as a replacement for the embattled Dr. Nunieh. For the emphasis, this circumspect gesture should be a bold handwriting on the wall that in the final analysis, the history of the cumulative failure or otherwise of the Niger Delta shall never be told without recurrent mention of the roles its stakeholders played.

By and large, the sack of Prof. Dokubo had smelt in the wind perhaps for a while, and therefore may not have come with the same torrent of surprise that heralded Dr. Nunieh’s humiliation. A little after Prof. Dokubo took over office, missiles of criticisms had started flying from the creeks. It has been like a crossfire of accusations by one critical group against one another who were out to defend the professor against all manner of allegations. That is to say that there were many forces and factors within and without that may have prompted the Professor’s eventual removal.

For instance, sometime in April 2019, some staff members of PAP were said to have been sacked on grounds that they conspired to leak some sensitive documents of an alleged contract scam involving some top-notch individuals to the press. Although the Special Adviser on Media to Prof. Dakubo, Murphy Ganagana, had denied and dismissed both the existence of such documents and that being the reason for the sacking of the staff, an online platform had alleged that it was the Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, who gave the directive for the sack perhaps because of the names who were embarrassed by the revelation. The Prof. was at the centre. He was blamed for carelessness. Late last year, a group by the name, Concerned Ijaw Youths, had called on President Buhari to immediately sack Prof. Dokubo for what they called “monumental fraud, embezzlement, rape and looting of monies meant for development”. The coordinator of the group, Mr. Enemotimi Ayemolegha, said they were shocked that the President still allowed the Professor to be in office.

Most recently, on 4th February, 2020, unpaid Amnesty-sponsored students staged a protest along the East West Road calling on the President to remove Prof. Dokubo, accusing him of diverting generators and refrigerators purchased by the Amnesty Office for onward distribution to ex-militants. They also accused the professor for paying himself and his brother a monthly sum of N500 milion for “a phantom monitoring and evaluation of contracts”. The general summary of the aggrieved and deprived beneficiaries was that there was deep-seated corruption in the Prof. Dokubo-led PAP.

But there were also groups that defended Professor Dokubo by seeing the allegations as facets of politics and therefore countering them. For instance, in July 2019, Ex-Agitators Generals had warned that any attempt to sack the Prof. whom they observed had served creditably would meet with dire consequences. Speaking on behalf of the group led by Dennis Fayeofori, the allegations were discarded as a conspiracy against Professor Dokubo.

Again in December, 2019, The United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS), speaking through its spokesperson, Gen. Tony Uranta, during their Annual General Meeting in Warri, described those calling for the sack of Professor Charles Dokubo as “enemies of progress who are hell-bent to scuttle the Amnesty Programme and a calculated plot against a well-respected son of Kalabari and Rivers State”.

However, a day after Prof. Dokubo was sacked, a group under the aegis of Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development argued that the sack of the Professor was long overdue. A line in a statement issued by their President, Clifford Reuben, said, “We thank God that days when Amnesty Office misused budgeted funds meant for Ex-militants are gone”.

Whatever arguments and counter-arguments there were, the fact remains that Prof. Dokubo was embroiled in issues. Nonetheless, the way and manner people from the Niger Delta who hold strategic office of responsibilities have been sacked both in the past and present, especially in the President Buhari’s era, for reasons not far from corruption call for sober reflection as it leaves a big stain on the collective character and integrity of Niger Deltans as well as their commitment to developing the region. Like MDs of the NDDC, it brings instant headache to begin to recall who wasn’t removed under controversial circumstances.

This may imply that the criteria for nomination of persons for appointment may have to be reviewed by both President Buhari and other stakeholders so that politics and connectionism may not be the only passport for such engagement of persons to serve in critical offices in the Niger Delta. In the end, it is the Niger Deltans who shall be mocked. History is waiting somewhere in the future to ask questions!

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