Presidential Amnesty Currently Sponsoring 2,984 Students In Higher Institutions – PAP Boss
Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Maj-Gen Barry Ndiomu (retd), Friday disclosed that about 2,984 students are currently in various higher institutions undergoing their studies on scholarship.
Ndiomu, who spoke during a meeting with traditional rulers under the auspices of the Association of Niger Delta Monarchs (ANDM) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, added that during the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the scheme has also produced 121 first-class graduates from 2015 to 2022.
According to him, PAP achieved the feet despite the challenges facing it, adding that the programme had recorded tremendous successes in education and skill acquisition.
He said: “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 identified the accuracy of PAP’s database as one of the challenges facing the programme and recalled that during the disarmament and demobilisation stage, 30,000 ex-agitators were captured wondering why the number still remained the same many years after.
He said: “Now when I took over office, they still had the 30,000 intact, based on our records. But you will 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, 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 during the disarmament and demobilisation phases, and so there was a 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 N65, 000 monthly. We want to understand exactly why an individual had 33 stipend payments into his account”.
Ndiomu solicited the cooperation of traditional rulers on the ongoing reforms of the amnesty programme.
He said as custodians of the culture and tradition of their people, they could deploy their enormous influence to propagate the new policy direction aimed at making PAP more impactful to the real beneficiaries.
He said: “Ever since I resumed office, I have interacted with many 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 out 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”.
The PAP boss informed 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.
Speaking earlier, the 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.
They urged Ndiomu to remain focused and prioritise the needs of the ex-agitators while also avoiding some mistakes of the past in order to achieve his overall plans for the PAP.