The decision by President Muhammadu Buhari not to discontinue with the activities of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) has continued to earn rave reviews.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) is the latest to commend the President for rescinding the decision to wind down the Programme.
This was contained in a statement by the Special Assistant on Media to Interim Administrator, Thomas Peretu at the weekend.
The Statement disclosed that the National Chairman of PANDEF, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien gave the commendation when he led other executive members of the group on a courtesy call to PAP’s Interim Adminstrator, Major General Barry Ndiomu (rtd) in Abuja.
Senator Ibok Essien pointed out that reports of the planned wind down sparked anxiety and increased tension among the people and would have destroyed the existing peace in the region.
He stated that by suspending the plan, President Buhari displayed how sensitive he is to issues of the Niger Delta and his commitment to the peace and stability of the region.
While congratulating Ndiomu on his appointment, the leader of the apex- Niger Delta socio-cultural body, informed the PAP boss that their visit was part of the continuous engagement with stakeholders.
He also commended Ndiomu for his patriotism and courage in consulting with stakeholders and for listening and communicating the right feedback to the federal government since his assumption.
He said: “The visit is in furtherance of our resolve to continuously engage with critical stakeholders of the Niger Delta region which the amnesty is a very serious part of it.
“We congratulate you on your appointment and thank you for what you have been doing which includes making the right feedback available to the government since you assumed office, which led to the stoppage of plans to terminate the amnesty programme”.
Responding, Ndiomu lauded PANDEF for the visit and for promoting the interest of the Niger Delta through sound advocacy and expressed his willingness to work with them to achieve his mandate for the PAP.
He noted that the visit was an opportunity for him to state in clear terms some falsehood and misconceptions about the new policy direction of the PAP.
Ndiomu said: “I was excited when I received the message that PANDEF executive is coming to visit us because for me it was an opportunity to correct some impressions to the people, I believe you are our political leaders, those who are responsible for directing the pace of affairs in the Niger Delta. So, I thank you very much for coming.
‘’Let me begin by saying when I was appointed by the government, I was given a clear directive to wind down the system and the reason was that the programme itself was not to run forever.
“The model that dictated the establishment of this programme was borrowed from the United Nations; it is a model that has been applied in all conflict zones across the world to achieve certain objectives within a period of time.”
Ndiomu further said that the Presidential Amnesty Programme was originally to terminate by 2015 from the inception in 2009 but ‘’the President then in his wisdom decided that certain persons that were not captured should be captured, that brought about the concept of impacted communities”.
He added that “of course it increased the number of the initial set of people disarmed and demobilized from about 20,000 to 30,000. What will interest you also is the fact that, the figures even overshot the 30,000 number and there were a couple of challenges’’.
The PAP boss also disclosed that on assumption of duty he engaged with stakeholders across the region and was able to identify lapses in the programme.
‘’My personal engagement with the ex-agitators and other stakeholders brought to the fore these challenges which the government was not aware of and so it was now my duty to take this back to them and say the programme has not quite achieved the objectives for which it was established.
‘’ Thank God we have a responsible and decent administration, we must give them credit; they accepted and decided to suspend the idea of an abrupt end to the Amnesty Programme’’, he said.