By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Amnesty Office has warned Niger Delta youths offered scholarship on compassionate grounds to study in universities across the country not to see the gesture as a right, but a rare privilege to enable them equip themselves with tertiary education and better their lives.
The Amnesty Office said being from the Niger Delta is not an automatic qualification to enjoy the benefits of the Programme, as its mandate mainly covered the management of 30, 000 persons captured in the database of beneficiaries.
Murphy Ganagana, the Special Assistant on Media to the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Prof. Charles Dokubo, said in a statement on Monday that the warning became necessary in view of an unruly behaviour exhibited last week by some non-beneficiaries of the Programme offered scholarship on compassionate grounds at the Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State.
He expressed dismay that rather than concentrating on their studies and show gratitude to the Coordinator of Amnesty Programme for providing them succour after they were fraudulently and illegally deployed to the university in March, last year by a former official of the Amnesty Office in the previous administration, the students who are not bona fide beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme engaged in acts that breached the peace in the university.
Ganagana said reports on the cause of the incident indicated that the students were simply being mischievous by demanding to be granted same allowances meant for beneficiaries of the Programme on scholarship duly captured in the database, not minding the fact that they are not beneficiaries and were illegally sent to the institution through the back door.
Part of the statement read: “We wish to clarify that there are two categories of persons in the March 2018 deployment of delegates to universities onshore for various educational programmes which was illegally carried out by a former staff of the Amnesty Office under the immediate past managers of the Amnesty Programme.
“This became a subject of investigation by relevant security and anti-graft agencies. The discovery of illegal deployments followed a verification exercise ordered by the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo on assumption of office.
“A committee set up to ascertain the number of beneficiaries of the Amnesty programme hitherto deployed to universities onshore for various educational programmes discovered that an alarming figure of students enrolled in universities under the Amnesty Programme were not captured in the database at the Amnesty Office.
“This was against the backdrop of huge tuition fees forwarded to the Amnesty Office for payment by some universities in the country for supposed beneficiaries deployed in the institutions for study.
“For instance, while a new university (identity withheld) forwarded a list of 62 pre-degree students to the Amnesty Office for payment of tuitions fees, the committee discovered that only 14 of them were captured in the database of beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme.
“Only 34 out of 201 first year students in another university in the Southeastern part of the country were also cleared as beneficiaries in the Amnesty database.
“In the same vein, names of 200 first year students out of a total of 290 sent to the Amnesty Office for payment of tuition fees by three universities in the South-south (names withheld) could not be verified on the database of beneficiaries. Only 90 names from the three institutions were verified,” the statement said.