…comprehensive audit of the programme from inception begins
The Federal Government has commenced the process to effectively shut down the Presidential Amnesty Programme by December 31, 2022.
It was learned that the government has already engaged an audit firm with a mandate to embark on a comprehensive audit of the programme from inception till date.
A source who spoke anonymously said the new Interim Administrator of the PAP, Maj Gen Barry Ndiomu, (rtd) had made it clear to the staff during a meeting in September that his mandate is to wind up the programme in six months.
Findings revealed that since the meeting, there is an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear in the two offices of the programme in Abuja.
It was learned that in line with the presidential directive to shut down the PAP, the Amnesty Office has stopped further award of scholarships to students from impacted communities.
It was also learned that the operations of the office have been reduced drastically such that contract awarded for new training programmes have stopped forthwith.
A source said that the Presidency has already issued timelines to the new leadership of the Amnesty office to wind down the programme in adherence to the stipulated period.
A document allegedly in possession of the unit heads of the PAP with the title ‘Winding Down the Presidential Amnesty Programme’ specified the timelines for the various activities necessary for terminating the programme.
The terms of request of the document read, “a. Ensure the cessation of all processes of contract award immediately.
“b. Identify and profile beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty Programme from inception between 17 and 31” October, 2022.
“c. Engage a reputable Audit Firm indigenous to the Niger Delta Area to carry out and conclude by 30 November 2022, the audit of all Programmes undertaken by PAP from inception to ascertain:
“I. Total number and categories of programmes undertaken.
II. Total amount spent on the programme and on each programme component.
“III. Total number of ex-agitators trained, specifying their programmes.
“IV. Number and category of outstanding eligible beneficiaries.
“V. Ex-agitators still in various training institutions.
“VI. Number of leaders/beneficiaries of the monthly stipends.
“VII. Debt profile.
“d. Propose a mechanism for the settlement of outstanding debts, if any, by 31st December, 2022.
“e. Take inventory and compile the list of all movable and immovable property by 31st December, 2022.
“f. Embark on holistic consultation/engagement of critical stakeholders and public enlightenment on the imperative of winding down the PAP between. 1st and 30th November, 2022.”
It was also revealed that the Presidency is uncomfortable that the Amnesty Office which was established by the Yar’Adua Administration with 30,000 ex-agitators still runs with the same number after billions of Naira have been spent on training and reintegration programmes.
The Presidency therefore holds the view that the office which was designed to end in 2015, has become a drain pipe to government resources and ordered that it should be brought to an end under the Buhari administration.
It would be recalled that on Saturday, the Pan Niger Delta Forum urged President Muhammadu Buhari against plans to terminate the Presidential Amnesty Programme before the end of his administration.
The foremost Niger Delta group described as ill-advised the plan to hurriedly terminate the programme by the Buhari administration which has a few months to go.
PANDEF warned that it is illogical and unacceptable for the Federal Government to terminate the Amnesty Programme because of a pipeline surveillance contract awarded to a private firm.
PANDEF warned in a communique issued at the end of its extraordinary meeting in Abuja that any attempt to prematurely end the programme would be injurious to the prevailing peace and stability of the Niger Delta.
The group averred that bringing Amnesty Programme which was an intervention agency deliberately put in place to promote peace stability in the Niger Delta will be counter productive.
Rather, the Niger Delta leaders, elders and stakeholders advised that the programme should be managed to tackle the full re-integration of all beneficiaries.
The communique was signed by the National leader of the group, Chief (Dr.) Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, National Chairman, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, Member of the BOT,
Dame Betty Igbeyi, National Woman leader, Chief Denzil Amagbe Kentebe, Member, Advisory Council, and Ken Robinson, National Publicity Secretary.
The communique reads in part, “PANDEF cautions the Federal Government against any ill-advised plan to terminate the Presidential Amnesty Programme given the rumours that the government is scheduling to wind up the programme before the end of the Buhari administration;
“The meeting further warns that considerations that the Presidential Amnesty programme could be scrapped due to a pipeline Surveillance contract awarded to a private firm, are not only illogical but unacceptable;
“Notes that the Amnesty Programme was an intervention to promote peace and stability in the Niger Delta; thus, any attempt to prematurely end the programme would be detrimental to the peace and stability of the Niger Delta;
“Going forward, the Amnesty Programme should be extended to include the full re-integration of all beneficiaries.”
There were widespread speculations that the Federal Government plans to end the Amnesty Programme due to paucity of funds and the fact that the programme designed to end after some years has lingered.
This has culminated in an eerie silence in the region as it has thrown up a number of issues issues awaiting clarifications.
While there is a prevalent view in the region that the Amnesty Office cannot be in existence for ever, stakeholders such as the Ijaw National Congress, the Ijaw Youths Council and PANDEF have raised concern against terminating the programme abruptly without achieving the objectives that inspired its establishment.