Friday, 2nd December 2022
<To guardian.ng
Search
Breaking News:

Odds before Ndiomu in reforming Presidential Amnesty Programme

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Abuja
13 November 2022   |   4:10 am
As the recently appointed Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Maj. Gen. Barry Ndiomu, settled down to work, some concerned Nigerians have tasked him on necessary reforms that would enable the programme actualise its original mandate.

Ndiomu

As the recently appointed Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Maj. Gen. Barry Ndiomu, settled down to work, some concerned Nigerians have tasked him on necessary reforms that would enable the programme actualise its original mandate.

Some people have expressed regrets that several years after the establishment of the PAP, one of the major reasons for the agitations by Niger Delta Youths, which was the overall development of the oil-rich region, is yet to be addressed.

Many alleged that even the main agitators who fought courageously for the liberation of the region had little or nothing to show for their struggles. The scholarships opportunities meant for the people of the region were distributed to hundreds of non-indigenes.

Recall that Presidential Amnesty Programme was the first federal government’s genuine response to the plight of the Niger Delta people. Through that subtle approach, the late President Umaru Yar’adua succeeded in quelling the restiveness in the region.

By pacifying the agitators off the creek, where they had continued to blow up oil pipelines, the FG succeeded in its objective of boosting crude oil exploration for revenue generation and to attain its OPEC quota after a long period of lagging behind.

However, it was feared that as lofty as the amnesty programme appeared at inception for the youths, the gains could not be sustained due to poor management.

Recall that over 30,000 agitators were enlisted for various human capital development interventions locally and internationally. But the fact that some of the reasons for the agitations have persisted almost resulted in the second phase of restiveness in 2015, but for the timely intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

One of such reasons include the cleaning of oil spill, especially that of the Ogoni area, engagement of youths by multinational oil companies as well as the general development of the Niger Delta from where the chunk of revenue is derived.

The deal between the federal government and various groups of agitators to lay down arms and embrace skills acquisition and other forms of human capital development was sealed in August 2009 with over 30,000. Yet, more than a decade down the line, the number in the list of ex-militants has remained static inspite of interventions that saw majority of them sponsored for different programmes.

There were also allegations of nepotism in the distribution of scholarship slots meant for the people of the region.

Recall also that at inception, PAP was structured to run in three phases – Training, Empowerment and Engagement, after which beneficiaries are expected to exit the programme.

Unfortunately, it was gathered that the figure, rather than reduce as members exit the programme, has continued to increase without consideration for the financial implications to the government.

According to a Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Chief Festus Oguche, the programme was laudable, having helped in restoring peace to the region.

According to him, it solved the problems of insecurity, militancy and violence in the region. “At a time, the region became the hotbed of agitations and militancy until the late President Yar’dua came up with the programme, which worked well to keep the boys out of the creek.

“A lot of expectations were met at that initial stage in spite of skirmishes here and there over the distributions of amenities, funding and other largesse from the FG. They were initially well taken care of and the boys were happy.

“But the latter part of the programme was turned into something else. Government was no longer committed to the goals of the programme and there were lots of inadequacies in implementations to the extent that at some point in this administration, there was threat of stopping the programme.

“The boys constituted themselves into Niger Delta Avengers and it took the intervention of Vice President Osinbajo, who visited some of the communities during one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s foreign trips. People saw the genuineness of government and the boys came out of the creek,” he said.

Oguche, however, warned that considering the volatile nature of the region, PAP must not be abandoned, especially as much has not been achieved in terms of physical infrastructural development.

While commending the federal government for the recent appointment of an Interim Administration headed by Ndiomu, Oguche called for full return to the programme’s objectives.

“He should bring back that sense of awareness that the programme is not a money-making venture as was perceived by those whom it was earlier entrusted with, which led to allegations of corruption and mismanagement.”

Oguche also warned that since the country relies largely on the revenue from the region to fund the economy, the peace and security of the region should not be toiled with.

“So, the new Interim Administrator should understand that a programme of that nature must deal with the dynamics of the region in terms of satisfying their agitations, meeting their yearnings and understanding their challenges and finding solutions to those problems.”

Part of the reforms, Oguche suggested, should include engagement of trained ex-agitators in any projects or investment within the region, especially in the oil and gas industry.

Oguche also admonished Ndiomu on the assessment of all ex-agitators to see how they have fared over the years, and that only the people of the region should hold sensitive positions in the administration of the amnesty programme.

Another concerned citizen of the Niger Delta, who would not want his name mentioned, applauded the federal government for the choice of Maj. Gen. Ndiomu. He described him as an astute administrator, who has the ability to reform the scheme into its original concept.

President Buhari had in September approved the appointment of Ndiomu (Rtd), as the Interim Administrator for the Amnesty Programme. Ndiomu, who hails from Odoni in Sagbama Local Council Area of Bayelsa State, has held several command and staff appointments in the course of his successful military career before retiring in 2017.

It is believed that the emergence of Ndiomu has rekindled hope for the people of the region, particularly with the controversies trailing the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Aware that so much is expected of him, the new PAP boss assured that the programme shall be responsive to the hopes and aspirations of the ex-agitators and the entire people of the region for sustainable peace, security and development.

He said: “We shall equally embark on reorientation, training and empowerment of the ex-agitators in line with the present realities of the nation. It is my desire to uphold the sanctity of the core values for the establishment of the Amnesty Programme that borders on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration, which form the tripod upon which the programme presently stands.

Ndiomu also sought the understanding and support of ex-agitators, business communities operating in the region as well as all critical stakeholders in the region.

“It is our mandate to reintegrate beneficiaries fully into the society after training and empowering them to the status of entrepreneurs and/or employable citizens who will become net contributors to the economy of the Niger Delta region.”

In keeping to his words, Ndiomu was said to have reduced the number of ex-agitators from 30,000 to 28,100 persons. This, he believed, will further save cost for the FG. The step is in addition to N1.3 billion saved through negotiation with creditors.

Ndiomu has declared that his focus is to make FG see reasons the PAP should be redesigned as a Social Investment Programme rather than winding it down totally.