In his resolve to reform the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Major General Barry Tariye Ndiomu (rtd), the Interim Administrator of the intervention programme has sought the cooperation and support of traditional rulers in the Niger Delta region.
Gen. Ndiomu who noted that as custodians of the culture and tradition of their people, the monarchs command enormous influence which they can deploy to propagate the new policy direction, assured that his policy direction is aimed at ensuring that the Programme becomes more impactful to the real beneficiaries.
The PAP boss who stated this when he hosted the traditional rulers under the aegis of the Association of Niger Delta Monarchs in Port Harcourt on Thursday, posited that to maintain the desired peace and stability in the region, monarchs must be consulted just like other critical Niger Delta stakeholders.
“Ever since I assumed office, I have been trying to get myself acquainted with the mode of operations of the Presidential Amnesty Programme. I have interacted with several stakeholders across the region and I realized that I will also have to meet with the monarchs in the Niger Delta.
“Being the principal custodians of the tradition and culture of our people and by virtue of your positions as monarchs, you’re the closest to the people.
“PAP is a national security programme and considering the role of our monarchs in the Niger Delta, it is very important that you’re carried along with the new policies that I intend to introduce to ensure we maintain peace and security across our region.
“I believe that through you, we can reach out to educate people that we need to maximize the benefits of this programme. This programme has already swallowed over a trillion naira. I personally believe that if we had properly directed the resources, a lot more could have been achieved,” he noted.
Ndiomu told the monarchs that he was seeking the approval of the federal government to commence the process of getting ex-agitators to form cooperatives as part of the deliberate policy to make them self-reliant.
He said despite the obvious challenges, the PAP has recorded some degree of success, especially in education and skills acquisition, but insisted that much more could have been achieved.
“We have recorded quite a number of successes in the educational pursuit of the dreams of ex-agitators and all other indigenes of Niger Delta through the very robust scholarship schemes.
“As of today, we have 2,984 students in training, in various tertiary institutions across the country.
“We have also over these years between 2015-2022 produced 121 first-class graduates in various levels of the scheme.
“The total number of graduates between 2018-2022 is 2,881. On this number we have Bsc students 1,862, Masters degree 362, PhD 38, we also have about 53 students currently schooling abroad, first degree, a masters degree, and PhD,” he added.
Highlighting some of the challenges that have bedeviled the programme, Ndiomu said, “One of the challenges I inherited in the amnesty office is the issue of the accuracy of the database, now like I said earlier, initially from the disarmament and demobilisation exercise they had recaptured about 30,000.
“Now when I took over office, they still had the 30,000 intact, based on our records. But you’ll agree with me that that is not realistic, what that means is that nobody died, nobody graduated from the university and got gainfully employed and so I decided to investigate.
“I’m sure our royal majesty and highnesses must have read in the papers some reactions by some of our people, at the end of the day, they call you all sorts of names, but what I am doing is in their best interest.
“In my investigations, now there are two categories of what we call stipend payments of the ex-agitators, you have the bulk payment and you have the single individual payments too, that is supposed to be to individual ex-agitators.
“In the course of our investigations, the bulk payment was explained to me, and I want to believe that that is the truth as monies paid in bulk to some of the ex-militant leaders and the basis for that is because there were a number of ex-agitators in the list, that was not accounted for disarmament and demobilisation phases, and so there was the need for all payments to be made to the ex-militant leaders who will, in turn, disburse same to those affected.
“But strangely in the course of investigating, if we could justify that of the bulk payment programme of the ex-militant leaders, we now found individuals with single BVN having multiple payments into their accounts with a single BVN, so which means a single BVN receiving 33 stipend payments of 65 thousand naira monthly.
“In a bid to now delist these names, well not delisting them to say we’re completely denying them because we have to understand exactly why an individual had 33 stipend payments into his account.”
Executive Chairman and General Coordinator of the Association of Niger Delta Monarchs of Nigeria, HRM King Frank Okurakpo, assured Ndiomu of their support in ensuring the success of his tenure.
Other traditional rulers who spoke at the event described the meeting as a necessary interaction for the good of the Niger Delta, noting that it was the first time any head of the PAP was reaching out to them to collate their views on the programme.
The monarchs jointly urged Ndiomu to remain focused and priotize the needs of the ex-agitators while also avoiding some mistakes of his predecessors.