From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Watchdog for Progressive Ijaw (WPI), an advocacy group, has described the ongoing probe of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Account as a distraction.
The group said apart from distracting PAP Interim Administrator Col Milland Dixon Dikio (retd), the lawmakers have other hidden motives, suggesting that they are not in the public interest.
WPI Coordinator Lambart Olambo said that since the proclamation of the programme by the Presidency, the committee had never bothered to probe the financial dealings and activities of past PAP coordinators.
Olambo recalled that stakeholders from the region have called for investigations into the activities of past PAP coordinators who were enmeshed in corruption allegations, but that despite public outcries, including street protests against them, the House failed to investigate.
‘We complained. We blocked roads and wrote petitions against past PAP coordinators, who deviated from the mandate of the programme and allegedly misappropriated funds and were even linked to contract scam. But, these lawmakers failed to initiate any probe,’ Olambo stated.
‘What has really changed that they have now started probing PAP at a time PAP’s original intent and purpose are being realised by Dikio? Could it be that the current positive change in PAP is negatively affecting the fortunes of the lawmakers?’
Olambo said they were not against probing Dikio, but that they would resist an attempt to reduce the personality and character of the interim administrator with alleged mismanagement that occurred years before he assumed his office.
‘We are not against probing Dikio and we know that Dikio himself will not stop any probe against him. But, any probe against him must be based on his activities, his actions and inactions not on the activities of his predecessors.
‘It is usually said that government is a continuum. We agree, but that does not mean that a successor inherits a personal baggage of his predecessors. A successor cannot be answerable to the actions and style of leadership of his predecessors, whose regimes he was not part of.
‘If there were mismanagements in the past and the committee is interested in probing it, then, the committee should go ahead to invite persons, who were responsible for the mismanagement. All the past coordinators are alive and can be invited to defend their actions.’
Olambo said it was uncharitable and unacceptable for the lawmakers to subject Dikio to interrogations of financial activities that occurred in PAP in 2015, five years before he assumed leadership of the amnesty office.
The coordinator asked: ‘Where were the lawmakers then? Dikio has come to make a difference and we don’t want anybody to distract him. He has come to correct the ills of the amnesty office. For the first time the programme has been returned to its owners in the Niger Delta.
‘This is the first time we are having transparency in the verification and payment of contractors. The ex-agitators are receiving their stipends on the 25th of every month. It never happened before.
‘Dikio is going ahead with the reforms of the amnesty office against all odds. He is out to make a difference and we are urging the House Committee to only monitor him and judge him by what he is doing and not to occupy his time with issues that have nothing to do with him.’