A large scale fraud, running into billions of naira has been uncovered at the Presidential Amnesty Program .
The startling revelation was made weekend in Abuja by the Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Gen Barry Ndiomu retd during an exclusive interview with Shipping World Magazine. Gen Ndiomu who disclosed that no fewer than 3000 Niger Delta youth have been trained under the scheme since its introduction by late President Umaru Musa Yaradua in 2010 , expressed shock at the level of sharp practices in the Agency. He said that an audit he embarked upon shortly after his assumption of duties two months ago has also uncovered large scale racketeering in the offer of local and international scholarship programs. Said he. “When I assumed office, i was told we had a debt of N4.5billion on ongoing vocational training but i took a closer look at it and directed the head of reintegration to review the amount of the contract because i felt from the figures i was shown that they were a bit exaggerated.
For instance, it was costing almost N11million to train one person in welding for seven months, and i thought this wasn’t acceptable. And i ordered a review and we were able to make a saving of about N1.3b, and so what we are indebted to is a little over N2b.”, he said. On the massive racketeering under the scholarship scheme, Gen Ndiomu said he discovered between 400 to 500 non Niger Deltans that were smuggled in as beneficiaries. He disclosed that there are unconfirmed reports that some prospective beneficiaries of the scheme were made bribe officials of Agency huge sums of money to get placements . ” I did carry out an internal audit and i did find out certain disturbing revelations. For example, approximately 400-500 non Niger Deltans are under the scheme, i do not know how that came about. Ofcourse, there are allegations that money was paid by these individuals to get the scholarships awarded to them “.
The Amnesty helmsman also spoke on the sudden uturn on the part of the Federal government to dump its initial plans to wind down the program. Said Ndiomu: ” At the time i was appointed, i had a clear directive to wind down the program, and there was a basis for that. When the programme was Initially conceptualized, the idea was for it to run for about 5years and so 2015 was the terminal date for the program.
However, it became clear, like i said earlier that with the expansion of the program beyond the initial 30,000 ex agitators extending into the impacted communities, it became impossible to meet up with that date, coupled with the fact that the process of capacity building for the ex agitators have not been concluded and so it became inevitable to extend the program beyond the agreed date and by the time i was appointed to join the program, ofcourse it had gone beyond the 2015 deadline and government was desirous of winning it down. He continued ” However, upon my assumption of duty, i undertook an engagement of stakeholders across the region discussing with Elders, Monarchs and the feedback i got was that first of all, the program had not quite carried out the objectives for which it was established and that many of the ex agitators complained that they have neither been empowered nor trained … and upon my presentation and recommendation, government was magnanimous in listening and responded positively ” , he concluded