Oscarline Onwuemenyi, with agency reports
07 June 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Liaison Officer, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Niger Delta Liaison Office, Mr. Piriye Kiyaramo, has said that training of ex-militants overseas has become so exorbitant that the Amnesty Office could not sustain the scheme with its current budget.
Kiyaramo, who spoke in an interview with NDV, a local publication, said: “When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, the first thing he did was to cut down the budget from N53billion to N20 billion, which is why we are having the challenges of paying the stipends. What changed was the funding as previous administration had no problem with funding and the trainings were localized was because of funding.”
He added that, “The new N20 billion could not even pay the stipends alone and school fees, not to talk about running cost. Now we are in the reintegration stage of the program where so many trained have returned and we are trying to look for places where they could be engaged. For those that are trained in various skills, we need to provide starter packs for them so that they can practice what they have been trained in.
“All these things need funding, but the funds are not there and even the funds that were approved are coming in trickles and of course, the economic situation is something that everybody is aware of. It is not Buhari’s or anybody’s doing but we just found ourselves there.”
According to him, “One most important thing is transparency as the office today is no longer seen as a political office. Before now, the office was seen as a political office, but now, Paul Boroh, a retired Brigadier General with exposure in the United Nations, has de-emphasized politics. What he is after is to ensure that the money that is there is used for the purpose it is meant for and that the people of the Niger Delta benefit from it, especially the youths. These are some of the things that we some of the things we are doing.”
The liaison officer, however, explained that the challenges of funding was not peculiar to the PAP, stating that, “Not only the Amnesty office is facing this challenge, but Boroh partners with a lot of developmental organizations, ministries to come out with a different initiative on how we can get along and that’s the magic.
“There are things that we need money to do, but some individuals and organizations come to the office to provide that service as their own contribution else, nobody gives us cash. It is a DDR programme which is the Disarm, Demobilization of ex-combatants, and Re-integrate them back into the society.
“It is a United Nations programme for troubled spots all over the world and these programs are sponsored by the UN in other regions, but in the case of Nigeria, it is solely sponsored by the federal government and our program is very bogus. When Boroh came in, he decided to explore these avenues.”
Kiyaramo explained that in his bid to manage the challenges, Boroh had to localize the training of ex-militants, as offshore training of ex-militants were very expensive and the office did not have the opportunity to monitor the training.
He said: “When Buhari came, he said he would look at the problem, review it and make it more effective and I think even the new vision for the Niger Delta. There are plans to bring in the state governments and make the programme to be owned even by the states. Before now, it was seen as a federal government thing, but now, the Buhari government is involving the state governments more in the partnership.
“Before now, there was no exit strategy. The programme is not a lifetime programme, but an intervention programme, so it was supposed to end at a particular date. There was supposed to be an exit plan where if you have been trained and reintegrated, then you are off the programme you no longer entitled to the N65, 000, but we discovered that some persons, who have undergone several trainings, are still within the programme and are earning stipends.
“So without an exit strategy, the budget for the programme will continue to be spent on people that ought not to be spent on,” he added.
On the termination date for the programme, he noted, “The federal government has not been able to determine the day because it would all depend on federal government fulfilling its part of the bargain by training these people and reintegrating them. Once that is done, the federal government might then see a clearer day of termination of the programme.”
He explained that according to the early plan, the programme was supposed to terminate in 2015, but we had some persons who are yet to be trained and reintegrated into the society and you would agree with me that reintegration has a lot of components like reconciliation, provision of source of livelihood, peace building and all that,” he added.