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The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Co-ordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Brig-Gen. Paul Boroh, in this paper delivered participants of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), lays bare the poverty in the Niger Delta and the role the PAP has played in reducing it. Excerpts:
The Niger Delta region has benefitted from Federal Government investment of over $40 Billion, over the last 10 years.  Through a variety of Federal and State Government interventions (schemes and programmes), skills acquisition has been a key tool of government to work towards reducing high levels of poverty in the region.
The PAP has currently trained 13,571 delegates and with 712 delegates that are currently in-training in a variety of vocational skills. Also, the PAP has graduated 1,230 in various fields of education and currently has 3,057 students in various universities across the globe still studying.  These acquired skills and education have given a total of 18,570 delegates (in education and vocation both graduated and in-training/studying) the opportunities to access sustainable livelihood.  Delegates access to entrepreneurial activities that have earned them on the average, income higher than the minimum wage in Nigeria.  The Programme has therefore been a tool for poverty reduction in the region, given the level of socio-economic improvement of the delegates in terms of education, access to employment as well as access to empowerment in a variety of business areas.
The results of the survey of 232 delegates have demonstrated the assumption that skills acquisition has a positive impact on poverty reduction.  However, other factors like income (monthly stipend, monthly salary, monthly personal drawings from profit) received by delegates, are also critical.    The acquired skills need to therefore lead to a form of income, through employment or self-employment. Actual poverty reduction also depends on the level of income secured in the employment of micro-business, as the 2016 ILO report on decent jobs highlights. (World, Employment Social Outlook 2016: Transforming Jobs to End Poverty”, International Labour Organization, 2016).
Many of the surveyed delegates who were empowered with entrepreneurial skills and starter pack items to start-up businesses, have been able to grow their businesses with a good profit margin and these businesses may soon be able to create more jobs in the region thus, having multiplier effects on other households and families. Also, a significant percentage of the skilled, employed and empowered delegates are females and majority of the delegates are married and have dependents under them. This implies that the training, employment and empowerment have multiplier effects on the households and families of the delegates.   Also, a significant percentage of the surveyed delegates become car and house owners within the short period of training, employment and empowerment. Those who had been trained and empowered in business, clearly showed that they have benefited the most from the PAP.
The indicators and findings of the survey of the delegates therefore show that the PAP has the socio-economic potentials to continue to improve the wellbeing of the citizens in the region and in the country at large.     Nevertheless, a significant percentage of delegates are yet to be trained and many more still need to be employed or empowered.   This challenge has the potential to reduce the success level of the programme and the capacity of the programme in reducing poverty in the region, if not addressed. 



RECOMMENDATIONS
The following recommendations are proffered to serve as policy interventions for the Federal Government’s Intervention in the Niger Delta:
There should be a review of the Niger Delta Regional Development Plan and a renewed cohesive and comprehensive approach should be adopted with regards to investment in the Niger Delta Region by the all stakeholders, including Government and private companies.
The various government agencies in the Niger Delta must be strengthened in a way and manner that they can effectively institute transformation in the region. Each of these levels of government agencies must continue to strive to contribute its own quota to the poverty reduction in the Region through training and skills acquisition and empowerment.
Skills acquisition interventions must be accompanied with fully-funded job creation and micro business entrepreneurship programmes at federal and state levels.
In line with the transparency of President Muhammadu Buhari Administration and to ensure peace in the region, all stakeholders within the Niger Delta region need to be continuously engaged and involved in the monitoring of implementation of these government interventions.
The Framework for PAP should be strengthened by increasing the capacity of the Programme to accommodate and give support to all delegates. This could be through private organisations and encourage public-private partnership to increase the scope of service delivery of the Programme and also to attract more funds and support for efficiency and effectiveness. This would enable the empowerment of more businesses that will further create job opportunities in the region.
Agencies charged with responsibility for the provision of infrastructure in the Niger Delta region, need a clear sense of direction and to be seen to deliver timely results, to enable the development of a more conducive business environment in the Region.
Environmental concerns in the Region should go beyond rhetoric. Action should be taken on zero tolerance for gas flaring, and such other factors which degrade the environment of the Niger Delta during oil exploitation. A multi-sectoral approach is required for cleaning of the region to solve the environmental problem and security problem. Public sector cooperation and synergy becomes imperative.
The political matrix upon which the regional economy can develop is very important. Therefore, it is necessary to nurture a transparent democratic process which respects the sovereign will of the people as expressed through their votes and consultative channels that allow unrestricted media attention, as well as the development of a political leadership that is accountable.
Skill acquisition packages for Niger Deltans promise a better future for both the local population and the companies if well managed. Upon the completion of their training and education in oil related skills, the companies should ensure that they are recruited and engaged in the oil industry by a quota system.
To sustain poverty reduction in the region, it is important that government continues to find a platform for round table discussions with the inhabitants of the Niger Delta as much as possible to reduce agitation in the region.
Collaboration among the security arrangements in the region comprising the Police, private and community-based security organisations is critical to lasting Peace in the region.
Finally, Government policies must be sustainable and modified only to suit the need of the populace particularly in the Niger Delta. Policies and programmes of the government must be time relevant and consistent with change in administration for positive results and lasting peace in Niger Delta region.

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