House C’ttee Canvasses Increase in Budgetary Allocation for PAP

Juliet Akoje in Abuja. 

The House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Affairs has called for an increase in the budgetary allocation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP).

The lawmakers made the call while meeting with the officials of the PAP at the headquarters in Abuja Monday .

The Interim Administrator, Major-General Barry Tariye Ndiomu, lamented that the value of the annual budget of PAP has depreciated by a whopping $105,000 since last year when the naira began to slump against the dollar at both official and parallel markets with consequential impacts on the programme’s policies and activities.

The visiting lawmakers led by the committee’s Chairman, Hon. Eugene Okechukwu Dibiagwu, promised to interface with their colleagues with the conviction of finding common grounds to address the funding gap in the amnesty programme.

The lawmakers said a representation would be made to President Bola Tinubu and the Federal Government with a view to draw the attention of the executive arm of government to consider an increase of the annual budget of the PAP to reflect the present economic realities.

Following a presentation by the Interim Administrator, the parliamentarians in their separate remarks, expressed admiration in the application of good judgement and the judicious deployment of scarce resources in meeting the programme’s increasing obligations.

The lawmakers further commended Ndiomu and his management team for what they described as a rare display of character and leadership quality in managing one of the most challenging public agencies in the country.

“We hereby say the designation of Interim Administrator be changed to a substantive chief executive of this programme and we encouraged him to work closely with the House Committee to enable us collectively address those obvious challenges of the programme” the lawmakers said.

Dibiagwu earlier explained that the House Committee on Niger Delta embarked on the visit to the PAP to interact with the Interim Administrator and his team on issues of the PAP mandate, mission and vision, policies, programmes and projects, as well as the impact of its activities on the ex-agitators who are the direct beneficiaries of the programme.

Other areas of interest, according to the lawmaker, are “achievements of the PAP in intervention activities, prospects for the future and overall composition of  management and staff, as well as any other business that might arise in the course of the engagement.

“You have administered the PAP soundly and some of the details we have requested for can help in channelling those legislative decisions towards any necessary amendment and we also suggest the PAP collaborate with other interventionist agencies in the Niger Delta for a greater benefit. The committee  will return soon to carry out oversight functions”.

In his presentation, Ndiomu gave a detailed account of PAP’s activities since his assumption as chief executive in September 2022 and declared that: “The purse of the PAP is currently stretched to the limits due to the forex challenges. This has made the cost of both local and foreign education and other training schemes highly exorbitant.”

According to him, the PAP is in partnership with 18 universities and 61 non-partnering universities onshore, adding that a total of 1,659 students’ beneficiaries under the PAP scholarship scheme have graduated from offshore universities even as the programme has trained more than 19,000 beneficiaries in vocational skills.

He further explained that he inherited a N41 billion debt linked to projects in vocational trainings and empowerment from 2017 to 2019 and another N14 billion debt from unpaid stipends to beneficiaries and has since offset the latter.

“Also inherited were vocational training centres in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ondo States. But unfortunately, the only one which was completed and equipped at Boro Town-Kaiama in Bayelsa State and ready for takeoff was broken into, vandalized and looted for which the PAP would require about N8 to N10 billion to rehabilitate now.

“While the monthly stipend payment to ex-agitators gulps about 50 per cent of the annual PAP budget, Ndiomu noted that the age of beneficiaries and attendant difficulties for most of them to adapt to learning in a formal education setting necessitated the initiative of the PAP Co-operative Society Limited (PACOSOL), which is currently birthing a new breed of entrepreneurs through the provision of financial support, market linkages and mentorship to enable them to grow their businesses,” he said.

On the current value of the annual budget, Ndiomu emphasized that: “PAP’s annual budget is N65 billion, an amount that has remained constant while the official exchange rate since he assumed office has continuously witnessed an increase and this is severely impacting activities of the programme”

Speaking on the future of the PAP, the staff and beneficiaries, he said staff composition reflects federal character and appealed to the lawmakers to weigh in into the consideration of making the PAP a social intervention programme for the Niger Delta, while also considering the job security of staff who are by design not civil servants.

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