Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Amnesty Office has reaffirmed its position that those on scholarship in tertiary institutions under the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) will not be entitled to stipends alongside their monthly in-training allowance, arguing that this was tantamount to double payment.
The Office said it would not be swayed from that position despite what it described as a growing culture of blackmail from some persons mainly from the South-South geopolitical zone “to get by or get contracts,” warning that it would not work.
In a statement captioned, “The Presidential Amnesty Office Welcomes Probe But Not Blackmail,” endorsed by the Head, Media, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Mr. Owei Lakemfa, the office said its attention was drawn to “a faceless group demanding a probe of its activities”.
The statement noted that as a public institution answerable to the public, the Office was obliged to give account of its activities.
“So, in itself, there is nothing wrong with a probe. Also, a probe does not mean guilt; it is merely an inquiry to find out if any infraction has been committed. It is like a man undergoing routine medical check-up which does not necessarily mean he is sick.
“However, the Presidential Amnesty Office objects to the group’s follow-up blackmail of the supervising officers, the leadership of the Presidential Amnesty Programme and their families. If in truth this group wants a probe, it ordinarily would wait for the response of the authorities it has petitioned and the outcome of the probe.
“To proceed to call for so-called protests in and outside the country until the leadership of the Presidential Amnesty Programme is replaced, is to pronounce guilt even before any investigation is carried out or the officials are given any chance to respond to the load of unsubstantiated claims.
“This is against the laws of natural justice, our national and international laws and ethics which give every human being the fundamental right to defend himself before a competent authority or court of law.
“This exposes the under belly of the probe demand as being far from altruistic; it is an indication that a hatchet job is under way. Unfortunately, there is a growing culture of some persons mainly from the South -South of the country plying on blackmail to get by or get contracts; this will not work with the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
“It is no more business as usual. Also, despite the blackmail, the Office stands by its decision that those on the Amnesty scholarship in tertiary institutions would not be entitled to be paid stipends along with their monthly In-Training-Allowance as this amounts to double payment,” the statement said.
It added that PAP is a professional and security interventionist agency designed to bring peace, stability and development to the Niger Delta and has so far succeeded in its primary mandate, noting that it was therefore unpatriotic to seek to politicise it.