Digital Marketing in Africa: Bringing much-needed skills to Nigerian youth

By Jérôme-Mario Chijioke Utomi

On June 25, 2009, President Umaru Yar’Adua (now deceased) granted presidential amnesty to Niger Delta militants who had directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offenses related to militant activities in the Niger Delta and who were willing to surrender their weapons. and to renounce the armed struggle within the framework of a 60-day ultimatum (August 6-October 4, 2009).

The government has targeted up to 10,000 militants whose attacks in the six Niger Delta states have cost the country a third of its oil production.

The program was supposed to stand on a tripod.

The first stage of the tripod was aimed at the disarmament and demobilization process; the second phase was to capture the rehabilitation which is the training process, while the third phase is the strategic implementation of the action plan towards the holistic development of the Niger Delta region.

Similarly, according to information available in the public domain, after the rehabilitation program, they are to be reintegrated into their various communities through vocational training, formal education or acquisition of entrepreneurial skills in Nigeria. or abroad, depending on the interests of the ex-militants. The reintegration program ranges from six months to five years of training.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the program has, over the past fourteen years of its existence, restored what analysts describe as relative peace in the region.

However, over the past decade too, Nigerians with a critical interest have been asking about some gray and unclear aspects of the program.

For example, many have asked these questions for too long and too often and received answers that seem substantial but in fact are not. And some of these citizens today feel manipulated.

Some have expressed their opinion and feelings about the program without receiving a response from the operator, and they feel ignored. For others, Nigeria’s communication environment offers few opportunities to speak out on the program and as a result, they feel discouraged. For this group, their frustration is further fueled by the realization that the responses/feeds they receive from the media increase/create cynicism.

Synoptically, while the program is still running with no end in sight and has recorded a very high rate of coordinator turnover during this period, one wonders whether the law establishing the program did not provide for the duration of the permanence of the coordinators, the question which requires one or more answers is; How long was the presidential amnesty program originally structured to last? How many former activists were originally enlisted for the program? How many have been trained? How many are still in training? What is the stage of the program; the disarmament and demobilization process, the rehabilitation/training processes, or the strategic implementations/action plan for the holistic development of the Niger Delta as a region?

How many former activists are still receiving training? How many currently receive an allowance? What is the amount ? Is it the same amount approved in 2008 or has it been revised? What is the fate of those who were then young, but now mature adults with families? Are they still dependent on the allowance as approved in 2008 or has the Amnesty Office increased these allowances to adapt to their new status?

More importantly, with the advent of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) which provides 3% for oil/host communities, this will again raise the question of; when will the federal government conclude the amnesty program? Or was it meant to last forever? If so, what is the plan in place to make the Office autonomous?

Providing answers to these questions and drawing inspiration from similar programs implemented abroad are the two objectives of this book.

Speaking of a similar program on the world stage and its inherent benefits, one particular program that comes naturally to mind is the Burundi Demobilization Program, described as a social transfer program combining cash and in-kind benefits that lasted between 2004 and 2010.

As Olivia D’Aoust, Olivier Sterok and Philip Verwimp have documented, the 1993-2009 conflict in Burundi was caused by years of ethnic discrimination. In 2000, the Arsha Peace Accord laid the foundations for a peace process and a new constitution based on power sharing and de-ethnicized political competition.

The program was coordinated by the World Bank and organized in three phases; demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration. The demobilization phase began with disarmament followed by the transfer of combatants to the demobilization center. The ex-combatants spent eight days at the centre, undergoing training on economic strategies and entrepreneurship opportunities as well as peace and reconciliation.

As part of the reintegration phase, demobilized combatants received a cash allowance equivalent to months’ salary, paid in four installments over an eighteen-month period. Demobilized combatants received the first reintegration payment when they left the demobilization centre, called the Transitional Subsistence Allowance (TSA) by the World Bank, the reintegration money was intended to “enable an ex-combatant to return in his community and to support himself and his families for a period of time.

Comparatively, when one juxtaposes this narrative with our amnesty model, the missing link becomes evident. There is a long history of failures on the part of the country’s successive amnesty managers to come up with and implement a well-conceived plan as demonstrated in Burundi. These particular setbacks/failures have forced many Nigerians at different times and places to question the intelligence of the manager and in some cases have concluded that most coordinators do not have a distinct set of skills that a leader must demonstrate in three central working contexts; accomplishments of the task, working with and through other people, judging themselves and adapting their behaviors accordingly.

If the main difference determining the success of the Burundian program and the endless failures of the Nigerian experience lies in leadership, there are however other observations to be made and truths that this article must underline.

First of all, apart from the actors who question the merits of teaching a man to fish in an environment where there is no river to fish or of training a man without a plan to create a jobs, how will FG explain that the amnesty initiative that was timed to empower the region’s youth through employment ultimately left the large army of professionally trained ex-militants jobless. In fact, the region and of course the nation is in a deplorable state because unemployment has various implications.

In the current circumstances, what the federal government seems to have forgotten is that from a security perspective, a large population of unemployed youth is a threat to the security of the few who are employed, and any transformation that does not have job creation at the center of its agenda will get us nowhere”,

Currently, this threat has become more pronounced in the oil-rich region of the country with the bulk of the supporters led by the large army of professionally trained ex-militants currently unemployed. Good management of these young people as a team is the panacea.

Finally, analysts say that while the amnesty offer is a positive step, the government has yet to show its willingness to tackle the underlying problems in the region. Instead of continuing this endless amnesty, it is important that in order to solve the problem of the region, the federal government must abandon the presidential amnesty program and in its place, implement the recommendation of a government appointed committee. , which a few years ago said that the Niger Delta states should receive 25% of the country’s oil revenues, compared to 13% currently.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Program Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based non-governmental organization (NGO) and can be contacted via [email protected]/08032725374