By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
The Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Maj. Gen. Barry Tariye Ndiomu (rtd) has reassured the people of the Niger Delta region that he will work together with all stakeholders to articulate a common position on the Programme which will be formally presented to the government.
Speaking during a courtesy call on the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Oboro-Gbaraun II, Aketekpe Agadagba, at his palace in Oporoza town, Delta state on Wednesday, Gen. Ndiomu said: “When we have the general stakeholders’ meeting, we will all come together and make position papers and then, collectively agree on what we think we want and we will make that presentation to government through our leaders”
He said: “For now, the Presidential Amnesty Programme is on the verge of winding down, and when I use these words, (winding down), does not mean that it will be brought to an abrupt end. If you recall, when the programme itself was put in place, the objective was for it to have terminated in 2015”.
“The truth is that the programme has derailed and we need to sit together as a people and as brothers and redesign it and say to government that this is how we want this programme to be. So that we are not shortchanged, because that is the situation now and we need to be candid and be frank about it.
“I do not want to go into too much details for want of time, but I want to assure his royal majesty that I will come back within a few weeks because we are returning again for much more comprehensive stakeholders’ consultations and am pleading with his royal majesty that when that time comes, which will be in about a few weeks from now, we will be inviting his royal majesty to also participate, so that there will be contributions from the palace and we can, together articulate a position which we will present to government to further improve on what we want in terms of our demands for our people”, Gen. Ndiomu stated.
According to him, “it has gone beyond the 2015 and so, the thinking of government is that we have to refocus and redirect the programme in such a way that we will move towards the final termination point in a very systemic manner. Since I assumed office in the last one month and a couple of weeks or so, I have found out that a lot of things are wrong with the programme. Without any doubt, the programme has completely derailed from the purpose for which it was established”.
“As I speak to you, there are many people who are not Niger Deltans that have been awarded scholarships. In some instances, people have bribed their way through to benefit and they are not from the Niger Delta. Such persons pay between 750.000 and N1m. We cannot allow this to continue. And it is for these reasons and many more that I believe government is saying no, this programme has lost its focus.
“Let us all sit together. That is why they have asked me to have consultations with the people of the Niger Delta, so that we can sit together and tell ourselves the truth, if the programme has really served the interest of the people of the Niger Delta.
“What do we propose collectively as an alternative to the Presidential Amnesty Programme; something better, which we will take to government and say, this is how we want this programme to move. That will be beneficial to the interest of our people. So that it will not be hijacked by a few persons whereas the young men and women in our communities are being denied the very benefits for which the programme was established. And it is a very painful thing, but if you do not understand it, you will think, why are they talking like this.
“If this programme was properly run from inception, I want to assure you that our youths will not be complaining because ernomous amount of money has been spent on this programme. If we had directed those resources to our people, I don’t think we will be complaining, to be honest. And so, it is about time to review it and suggest to government and say, this is the best way to go, do this for us.
“And I think also that we have gone past the stage of fighting and shouting. We are all now educated and mature people. There are ways in which we will put forth our views and insist that this is what we want without going to war and without going to insult any body, and we stand our grounds and we will get what we want.
“Your Majesty, the main purpose of our visit is to come here and meet with our brother, High Chief Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo and especially, having assumed duty as the newly appointed Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
“But coming into your kingdom and walking past the Palace was considered a taboo because we have ernomous respect for our royal fathers and the traditional institution and what you represent. It is only natural that I must stop by to pay my respect along with other members of my delegation.
“This is for now, a mere courtesy visit. We will still formalize our visit in the near future in view of the importance of what the government has asked me to do. On that note, Your Royal Majesty, I thank you for receiving us in your Palace, even though it was a very short notice, but am definitely going to return to you to pay my respect properly and to also discuss further with you on how best we can move this programme forward. Thank you”, the Interim Administrator stated.
In his brief response, the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Oboro-Gbaraun II, Aketekpe, Agadagba, said he was well abreast with the history of the amnesty programme, reiterating that: “We all know that the amnesty programme is deviating from the righ path and we want it to stand firm”.
“You are our son. You know the pains. You know the challenges of our people in the Niger Delta. We believe you. We believe Ijaw people. Ijaw stands for truth. We will pray for you go peacefully and come back peacefully.
“There are many things on the track that we have to discuss for the benefit and peace of the Niger Delta. To shorten the interaction, we will let you go and we are also asking for another visit. This is a kind of emergency visit. We thank you for coming”, the royal father said.