* Mere collection of monthly stipends no more the way to go
By Codratus Godson
The style of keeping ex-agitators quiet by giving them monthly stipends may soon end. This is because the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), now led by a retired army colonel, Milland Dikio Dixon, says it wants to focus on job creation and turning the ex-militants into entrepreneurs rather than dependent youths.
The over 20,000 ex-fighters under the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) may soon join the entrepreneurial army being groomed by the Federal Government. This is as the amnesty scheme is to transform from a scheme for collection of monthly stipends to a centre for job creation.
This was disclosed Thursday, January 14, 2021, in Okrika, Rivers State, when the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, led the Interim Administrator of the PAP, Milland Dikio Dixon, a retired army colonel, and the Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Effiong Akwa, to meet with ex-fighters at the palace of the king and Amanyanabo of Okochiri, Ateke Tom.
The meeting was attended by some ex-agitators such as Ebikabowei Victor Ben aka General Boyloaf and Bibopre Ajube aka General Shoot-At-Sight.
The minister disclosed that the visit was to work out the new PAP that would transform from giving stipends to turning the ex-fighters into entrepreneurs and job creators. This way, the amnesty scheme would become a meaningful scheme that would turn the over 20,000 ex-fighters into givers, not mere receivers.
Akpabio said; “The Presidential Amnesty Programme led by Dikio is visiting you with the Ministry of Niger Delta and the NDDC to consult on how to reposition the PAP and move it from a centre for monthly collection to a centre that turns out entrepreneurial youths.
“It should no longer be about collecting monthly stipends but about helping the ex-militants to become entrepreneurs. It is not the first time such scheme has been contemplated or the agencies have thought about this but it is the first time the three agencies are coming together to work on this.”
The then Umoru Musa Yar’Adua presidency had in July 2009 floated the PAP to save Nigeria’s oil industry that was pumping as low as 700,000 barrels per day due to militancy arising from agitation for resource control. The scheme was to place the fighters on a monthly stipend of about N60,000 each, train them and end the scheme, but this has lingered for years as the ex-fighters threaten mayhem each time an end came in sight.
The plan to progress the scheme to job creation agency seemed to get the blessing of the ex-militant commanders as the Amanyanabo, who was a warlord, endorsed a statement read on his behalf by an aide.
The statement presented after a closed door meeting in Tom’s inner chambers with the minister and the heads of both the PAP and NDDC said hailed President Buhari for the appointments of Akwa and Dikio for the NDDC and the PAP. “We will show him our own kindness. There will be peace in the Niger Delta. The new NDDC MD came in as child of circumstance. He is to complete the forensic audit and we know the President will confirm him. He is competent. All youths in the region should stop all forms of protests and cooperate.”
The ex-fighters thanked the minister for completing the NDDC headquarters which was started in 1995 by the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) headed by by Kalabari-born Albert Horsfall.
Speaking to newsmen after the meeting, the PAD CEO, Dixon, said the agency was offsetting the debts owed the ex-fighters while restructuring the agency to meet the new objective of becoming a job creation scheme.