Human Rights

Senate orders release of N15bn amnesty funds

Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun has been directed to release the balance of N15 billion meant to fund the Presidential Amnesty Programme in a bid to forestall renewed agitation and militancy in the Niger Delta region.

The directive by the Senate was part of resolutions reached at Thursday’s plenary, following a motion titled, “Monumental challenges facing the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) due to paucity of funds,” and sponsored by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.

Senator Nwaoboshi is the Chairman Senate committee on the Niger Delta representing Delta North senatorial district.

The Senate also mandated its Committee on Niger Delta to investigate the circumstances leading to funding constraints besetting PAP with a view to avoiding re-occurrence and report back in two weeks.

Other resolutions include the ordering of the committee to investigate how certain individuals, who are not indigenes of Abia and Akwa Ibom States, found their names included as beneficiaries of the programme.

In his Lead debate on the motion, Senator Nwaoboshi said, “the programme was in dire need of funds and it was absolutely necessary to release the balance sum of N15 billion in the 2016 Appropriation Act, so as to provide funds for its smooth running.”

According to him, “funds appropriated for the programme have been depreciating steadily, leading to adverse impact on the operations of the programme as tension is already building up in the Niger Delta region.”

Unsettled allowance

He expressed worry that 30,000 beneficiaries of N65,000 monthly allowance are being owed five months in arrears while N1, 873, 044, 700 in addition to the backlog of unpaid in-training allowance, amounting to N830, 500, are the debts on the education programme (onshore) owing Universities in Nigeria.

The lawmaker stated “educational programme (offshore) is suffering the same fate as unpaid in-training allowances for 750 students between 2016 and 2017 amounted to US$4, 200, 000 equivalent of N1, 332, 000, 000 and unpaid tuition fee for 350 students amounting to the sum of US$17, 500, 000 equivalent of N512, 500, 000.”

“If the planned protest by students in United Kingdom to the Nigerian High Commission is carried out over the nonpayment of tuition fees and allowances, it would bring Nigeria to ridicule and opprobrium before the comity of nations,” he added.

It would be recalled that the Nigerian Government conceived the Amnesty Programme to stem the tide of disaffection, agitation and militancy in the Niger Delta region, which resulted in loss of lives, properties and oil revenue.

The lawmaker, however, warned that the present situation was already threatening the success already recorded with the programme “as the Amnesty office is finding it extremely difficult to meet its obligation to its workers and beneficiaries of the programme.”

Also contributing to the debate, Senator Baba Kaka Garbai said the Senate had done its part, like the Nigerian government, in ensuring a permanent peace in the region by appropriating N35 billion in a supplementary budget from the N20 billion estimates in the 2016 Appropriation.

Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki said the N35 billion supplementary budget was approved by the legislative chamber to address the financial challenges faced by the Amnesty office and to sustain peace in the Niger Delta region.

Source: Voice of Nigeria