From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
The Watchdog for Progressives Ijaw (WPI) has thrown its weight behind the new Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Maj.-Gen. Barry Ndiomu, and his new mandate to actualise the original intent of the programme.
WPI, in a statement signed in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, by its Publicity Secretary, Charles Taylor, said Ndiomu deserved the support of all stakeholders in the region as his mission was in line with improving the peace, progress and development of the region.
Taylor, a former factional President of the Ijaw Youths Council (Worldwide) regretted that some mischief-makers were deliberately making devilish insinuations and misrepresenting Ndiomu to pit him against critical stakeholders in the region.
The popular Ijaw youth leader explained that Ndiomu’s mission was not to terminate PAP as being speculated in some quarters, but to refine, reform and turn the programme around to actualise its original purpose.
He said: “Those flying the kite of terminating PAP are simply trying to create confusion and bad blood in the region. Our interaction with Ndiomu so far has shown that he has come with a mandate to refocus the programme to actualise its original mandate.
“It is obvious that the programme has derailed from its original intent and purpose. In conflict zones across the world where Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) was introduced, it ended within five years.
“DDR and by extension, the amnesty programme does not last forever and it won’t last forever in Nigeria simply because it relates to the Niger Delta. All DDR programmes have exit routes.
“The number of beneficiaries is expected to be declining as they are being trained, empowered and reintegrated into the system until the last beneficiary is reintegrated.”
Taylor said it was unacceptable and unimaginable that PAP had continued to carry the same number of beneficiaries for 13 years.
He said part of the mandate of Ndiomu was to clear all obstacles delaying the progress and smooth operation of PAP, insisting that those, who had been trained and empowered were supposed to have exited the programme.
Taylor said: “We understand that some self-styled generals have started sponsoring a campaign of calumny against Ndiomu because they believe that his mission will end their fraud in PAP.
“Their lists of beneficiaries are padded with ghost names and they have been collecting these monies and living large for a long time. They don’t want to hear that there is a plan to introduce transparency and accountability that is capable of ending their corrupt practices.
“Besides, amnesty and DDR come with a tag of criminality. How long will the Niger Delta continue to carry this criminal baggage associated with amnesty because we want to satisfy the interest of a few selfish individuals against the overall development and progress of the Niger Delta?
“Some of these self-styled generals own mansions across the country, fly private jets, own exotic vehicles and have become contractors living in profligacy. Yet, they still want to remain beneficiaries of PAP to corner the stipends of living and ghost names.”
Taylor said while most stakeholders in the region were in support of gradually winding down the programme, his group would prefer transmuting it to a sustainable scheme.
He further urged Ndiomu to remain courageous in pursuing his mission in PAP and advised him to immediately introduce biometrics for ex-agitators to enable him weed out ghost names in the list of beneficiaries.