The origin and purpose of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) for Niger Delta militants was clearly
articulated by its founders in 2009 as a means of restoring the economic advantages of uninterrupted exploitation in, and export from, Nigeria of oil and gas resources. However, in order to justify the development of the programme the authorities’ devised policies that were meant to provide corrective benefits for the participants who were to be regarded as beneficiaries of official forgiveness and leniency.
This perception was based on an unusually humane interpretation of the justification for the actions
of the youth of the Niger Delta on the part of the government of the day. The Yar’adua/Jonathan
government decided that the youth had good reason to be unhappy and for making protest and resistance their response to official policy in their home territory.
As a consequence of this perception of the real motive for the insurgency that had become endemic in the region the primary managers of the Amnesty programme were mandated to focus on areas of educational enlightenment for the participants in order to transform them from disgruntled dissidents to productive members of society. For this to succeed government’s concern for the welfare and future wellbeing of the participants must be reflected in the effectiveness of the operations of the programme. For this reason, the Buhari Government appointed retired Major General Barry Tariye Ndiomu as Interim Administrator of PAP in 2022 after a series of complaints were raised about the deficiencies of the
programme’s performance since it was initiated.
It can hardly be denied that General Ndiomu inherited the office of Interim Administrator at a very critical period in the history of the Amnesty Programme and that he has been given a very onerous task. His major task is to revive the objectives and sustain the concern for the target recipients of the mandate that the original founders had articulated and to do so at a time when the record of his predecessors has attracted a lot of public disenchantment and distrust. He embarked on this journey with noticeable urgency as soon as he assumed the mantle of leadership at the agency by ordering a comprehensive investigative audit of its commitments and the status of all its verifiable debts. He also instituted a review of all its projects and policies as well as the status of its beneficiaries both at home and abroad. He also directed that the programme’s data base should be rendered more credible because the system of recording statistics and basic information was suspect.
The eventual sanitization of the data base has now yielded credible results with which the
management team led by him will create an effective legacy. According to the information contained in the records that he inherited 23,000 beneficiaries were receiving grants but after careful investigation this figure has been reduced to less than 20,000 thus registering a monthly saving of more than 200 million naira. A comprehensive investigation was also mounted into the information submitted to the PAP concerning the accounts and identities of the beneficiaries and substantial irregularities were uncovered. Having revealed and remedied these anomalies, the Interim Administrator turned his attention to rationalising the financial affairs of the institution and restoring regularity to its operations. To this end he acknowledged the organisation’s substantial indebtedness especially to some major suppliers and critical
contractors. He has settled some of the most vital of these outstanding obligations and has pledged to
reverse the debt profile so that the PAP agenda will regain its credibility during his tenure of service.
Having pledged to achieve this the Interim Administrator also mounted a thorough review of the
status of professional programs that had been initiated for participants by the PAP in order to ensure that
these were producing credible results. Primary among these programs was the training for cadet
commercial pilots and aviation maintenance engineers which he discovered that PAP had invested
substantial resources in. On discovering this he also determined that many of the trainees had been unable to complete their training and be certified because of administrative bottlenecks and bureaucratic shortcomings.
He has therefore directed that they should be enrolled in a special bridge program designed to accelerate their professional status and prepare them for domestic as well as international employment. His response to this program’s deficiencies is symbolic of the concern for relevance and credibility which has been the hallmark of his efforts to make a success of the Amnesty Programme which was inherited by the Buhari administration.
The expansion and rationalisation of the objectives of the PAP under the innovative direction of the
new Interim Administrator is characteristic of the sense of concern for the welfare of the people of the Niger Delta which the initiative is meant to achieve. To this end the establishment of a Formal Education Trust fund has been proposed and is to be launched by the second quarter of 2023. The donations to the
fund are to be sourced from state governments in the Niger Delta as well as development partners of
both domestic and international origin. The fund is to be managed by, “a board of trustees of eminent
personalities of Niger Delta extraction”. According to an in-house PAP memorandum, “The core objective
of setting up the FETFund is to commence the process for the strategic transition of the PAP into a more sustainable entity that would possess a wider mandate targeted at the youth of the Niger Delta region.” In addition to this original and visionary initiative the new management of the PAP has also proposed the establishment of a system of cooperative micro business enterprises to be organised in the Niger Delta to provide sources of independent income for participants in the PAP endeavour.
The real purpose of these innovations proposed by General Ndiomu is to ensure that enhanced opportunities for employment and meaningful existence will be found in the Niger Delta communities for
the rehabilitated youth after they have undergone the training and re-orientation exercise afforded them by their participation in the PAP. This will ensure that the consequences of the official concern for the welfare and progress of the youth for whom the PAP programme was designed will bear fruit for the future.