Mixed reactions as Ndiomu steadies amnesty programme
Some of the steps taken by the recently appointed Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), General Barry T. Ndiomu, have continued to excite Nigerians, especially those from the South-South Geo-political Zone of the country.
Although controversies surrounding the Presidential programme are yet to be settled, as some critics of Ndiomu’s actions have been alleged to be behind recent protests against the policies of the programme’s administrator, many still believe that his steps were geared towards transparency and accountability.
Soon after his appointment, Ndiomu frowned at the over-bloated list of ex-agitators who ought to have been delisted, having completed their programme. This move did not go down well with benefactors and consequently, efforts were allegedly made to ensure his efforts were frustrated.
Recall that Ndiomu had in November, taken a bold step and what many described as unpopular policy, to delist some ex-agitators from the programme’s database on the ground that the new Sheriff in town could not be seen to be condoning fraudulent practices perpetrated by some ex-agitators and their collaborators in the agency.
The PAP Interim Administrator revealed that there were duplications of names in the database. According to him, some individuals have over the years, changed their names multiple times with multiple or single BVNs in order to defraud the government through the programme.
Ndiomu expressed shock that there were situations whereby an individual was collecting stipends meant for about 10 to 33 persons monthly. This development, he stated, was making it almost impossible for the programme to meet its obligations and commitments to genuine contractors and students on scholarship.
Through forensic audit he initiated, it was allegedly discovered that some beneficiaries under various training programmes have been collecting both training allowance and monthly stipends while some beneficiaries, who have undergone training and empowerment are still on the database receiving stipends instead of exiting the programme.
Saddened by the rot he met on ground, Ndiomu noted that no administrator worth his calling would tolerate such mammoth malfeasance under his watch. He also attempted to make his critics understand that the audit was not aimed at witch-hunting any individual or group but a process of reforming the programme and sanitising the system in the interest of the ex-agitators, who have been short-changed by their counterparts.
In spite of his appeal to the ex-agitators and other interest groups in the region to buy into his structured plan to redefine the programme and to ensure sanity and accountability in the amnesty programme however, there was a sharp reactions by some ex-agitators who felt the administrator was in a hurry to delist people from the programme.
“He would have done a background check to reconcile the historical background of PAP instead of running to press with superficial allegation of fraud and financial corruption against people of great character reputed for working tirelessly to sustain peace and promote tranquility in the volatile region of Niger Delta,” one of the protesters said.
The protesters maintained that Ndiomu’s actions contravened the philosophy and good spirit for which the programme was initiated.
But the controversy notwithstanding, PAP administrator has continued to device means of expanding the programme for the benefit of the people of the region, who he felt had been shortchanged for long.
Recently, Ndiomu and the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan met in Abuja over employment of ex-agitators in federal civil service. There is also plan by the Nigerian Police Force to recruit ex-agitators into the Nigerian Police Force.
Expressing disappointment over the low turnout of potential recruits from the South-South region in previous recruitment exercises, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Alkali Usman Baba, assured Ndiomu that the police is ready to partner PAP in the recruitment of officers, especially at the grassroots.
The Federal Government had in 2017, directed that 350 best graduates of the programme should be given employment. The move was said to have been facilitated by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. Unfortunately, it was alleged that no meaningful progress emanated from the directive by subsequent administrators of the programme.
“Now, General Ndiomu (Rtd) is running with the directive to ensure that those 350 best graduating students get their placements with his meeting with the Head of Service of the Federal. The Head of Civil Service has promise to take some meaningful number.”
Part of Ndiomu’s bold steps include an engagement with the Commandant General of Nigerian Civil Defence Corp, who gave his commitment to enroll a good number of the beneficiaries.
“General Ndiomu is neck deep and committed in ensuring that this happen,” one of the interested parties from the region stated. Also speaking, a constitutional lawyer and rights activist, who claimed to have been following the trend, Chief Festus Oguche, noted that administering the office of PAP is an enormous task, adding that the work before the current administrator is more tasking, especially as he is committed to reforms.
“The administration of the Amnesty programme is one arduous task that requires every dint of wisdom and diligence. We are quite aware of the mountain of tasks before the current administrator and how he is going about it with the full commitment it deserves. His approach at opening the doors for new beneficiaries is very commendable as people who have received some largesse one way or the other cannot continue to be on the register.
“Having benefited by way of grant, you cannot continue to expect to continue to feature in the payroll as there are many others that are yet to. In this wise, those of them that were in the creeks at the beginning of the programme and who have obtained some training and remain unengaged should be considered for job placements where vacancies exist.”
While delisting old members that have benefitted from the programme, Oguche solicited that new intakes be given the opportunity for scholarships and skills acquisition.
He said: “The teeming crowd of the unemployed youths must also be given some chance by being integrated into the scheme to ensure balance and equity in the administration of the funds.
“Most importantly is the disposition of the current acting administrator to reform the process and framework in a manner that enthrones transparency over and above the subterranean activities that had hitherto been the lot of the running of the programme’s affairs.”
According to Oguche, steps already taken by Ndiomu are all in the right direction and the resort to pressure and negative criticisms may not be necessary after all.
“We must understand that the Amnesty programme is a palliative measures to douse the violent agitations by Niger Delta militants of certain demands that pertain to freedom and justice. Thus, care must be taken not to push it beyond the brinks of an accountable scheme, as it could upturn the whole idea of the programme. It will therefore be counter-productive to the whole essence of the scheme to engage in protests and hostilities with the current administrator who, to my mind, has noble intentions and goals in ways to keep the scheme alive and flowing.
“This must be understood from the paradigm of the working plans and strategies he has already put in place and which are convincing.”
Oguche continued: “There is the penchant of a few who are inclined to pick holes with anything that does not pander to their interests. Such people must be ignored as they only create nothing but distractions.”