The Interim administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Maj. Gen. Barry Tariye Ndiomu (rtd) has attributed the high number of unemployed trained ex-agitators to the lack of required job competencies, adding that: “the training did not produce the required expertise in these individuals, so for that reason many of them did not end up in gainful employment”.
Gen. Ndiomu who stated this when he paid courtesy visit to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Jideofor Kwusike Onyeama, in his office in Abuja said: “Another thing we have also noticed about the programme in the past, was the fact that the trainings did not produce the required expertise in these individuals, so for that reason many of them did not end up in gainful employment.
“And often times these category of people end up constituting nuisance to the society because they are not employed and so we continue to hear the incidence of pipeline vandalization and other things for which the programme was established to ensure that they do not go back into those type of activities.
“Just as you likened it to some UN peace keeping operations that probably have outlived the period of their existence, we suffer the same. As a matter of fact, from my own assessment the Presidential Amnesty Programme has completely derailed from its original objectives and probably because of that frustration that the government thought of going ahead to wipe it out.
“Unfortunately, like you said, there were no clear cut deliverables. The data was badly managed. We have set up several audit teams to actually determine the number of ex-agitators that we have, those that have been trained and those that have not been trained and empowered.
“Am sure you must have read about the present administration delisting some of these ex-agitators whom from our records have been trained and empowered and we felt it is tantamount to an abuse for these same individuals, even when they are gainfully employed to be receiving stipends.
“We are working towards repositioning the programme. We are introducing new ideas. We are carrying out re-engineering in such a way that there will be a terminal date for these individuals whom we will establish in due course of time, whether or not, they have been trained or not, we can have them properly trained.
“We are trying to put together our data. We are fashioning new programmes that will be more meaningful that will also result in gainful employment. So we are talking to institutions that can absorb them. Unfortunately, an earlier directive by this administration for about 350 of students who have performed credibly well, some with first class and second class upper division degrees, for them to be employed, was not effected. But I have taken it up with the Head of Service of the Civil Service of the Federation.
“As Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, I thought one of the ministries I should visit is the ministry of foreign affairs because of the relationship existing between your ministry and the Presidential Amnesty Programme over the years.
“Whatever successes we may have recorded, especially in the area of educational training, to scholarship schemes and vocational trainings abroad, would not have been possible without the ministry of foreign affairs and I thought that this must be one of the very first places I must visit to express our most sincere gratitude and for all that the foreign affairs ministry has been doing to support the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
“Your ministry has been responsible for assisting us with our consular activities in relation to deployment of students overseas and payment of their school fees, ensuring their welfare and more recently, the Ukraine/Russian war, I would like to thank the Honourable Ministry for the support you provided for our students at the time of the crisis in Ukraine and they were successfully evacuated.
“We are most grateful. There is much more this ministry has done to aid our activities. Whenever we have foreign engagements, your officials assist us with our visa requirements and we have not had any hindrances whatsoever and I said that is very important that I visit you to express our gratitude.
“At the time I was appointed, my mandate was to wind down the programme. I engaged the stakeholders by visiting individuals and talking to different categories of classes of people, the ex-agitators themselves, traditional institutions and the leaders across the Niger Delta region and it became apparent that they were certainly not prepared for any abrupt truncation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
“Because we also found out in cause of the engagement that most of the objectives for which the programme was established had not been realized and there was need to review that position. I had to return to government to advise them accordingly, considering the volatility of the region.
“Coupled with the fact that we are approaching elections and the present position of the oil and gas sector, it wouldn’t have been advisable to aggravate the tension that was beginning to arise in the region so I had to recommend and fortunately government offered listening ears and that decision has been suspended for now.
“But what we are trying to do also is to reposition the programme in such a way that we can now move gradually towards exiting the ex-agitators who have been captured by ensuring that they are trained; for those that have the capacity to be trained.
“For those without capacity to be trained, we are looking at some form of empowerment through vocational training institutions and partnering with international donor agencies like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), so that we can get them positively engaged and that will also keep them away from violence that we normally experience across the Niger Delta and hopefully, it will keep our pipelines secure once they have something to do.
“That is where we are at the moment, putting our thoughts together, trying to carve out a new vision and a new direction for the Presidential Amnesty Programme. I want to once again thank you for responding to our request very quickly and I want to also cease this opportunity to condole you for the loss of your brother. He was a very renowned Nigerian. I have had very personal knowledge of him since I was a child. May his soul rest in peace, the Amnesty Boss stated.
Responding, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Jideofor Kwusike Onyeama who extolled the leadership qualities of the Gen. Ndiomu emphasized the need for interface between the Presidential Amnesty Programme and the development agencies like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
He added: “The interphase with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the development work that they are doing and how that impacts also on the ex-agitators, and in particular, where the gaps have been in achieving the objectives of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
“Why I am particularly interested in that is that I have a UN background, expecially in peace keeping. And I know some of the areas where the UN has intervened in peace keeping and managing the transition process and after a while, it develops a life of its own and you actually never end up achieving the peace and so this is something I have been extremely worried about and to really have a very clear sense of what the concrete deliverables are and the time lines for achieving them and very clear exit path that you need to go through, otherwise, it can be a never ending process.
“It is interesting to learn that you recommend and the President approved extending the programme. We need to quickly move away from that dependency syndrome as a country and have that mindset of ultimately wanting to be self reliant and to develop a sustainable means of development and growth. That is why I was asking about the interface with the NDDC
“It is also important to have a mechanism that works in terms of looking after students outside the country because we have had a lot of problems, not necessarily with this particular programme (Presidential Amnesty Programme) but with other scholarships.
“We thank you for the services that you have rendered to the country in the past and you will continue to render now in this new capacity and to also congratulate on your appointment as Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme and it is interesting listening to what you have had to say about the programme. It is a great honour to receive you here. It is interesting to listen to you”, the Minister said.