The Acting Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Program, Major General Barry Ndiomu (retired), revealed on Thursday that the Federal Government has suspended the scholarship program for ex-militants and ex-agitators from the Niger Delta.
He said the program has been put on hold due to rising tuition fees, which he says have reached over N7 billion per session.
Ndiomu stated that the more than 350 Niger Delta Indians with first and second class (Higher Division) honors who have been offered managerial employment in the federal civil service have yet to be absorbed despite presidential directives.
According to him, the government would discuss a percentage payment with private universities before exploring the possibility of re-granting scholarships “in a more rational and reasonable manner in accordance with the budget of the amnesty program.”
He said the educational audit report just released indicated that three-quarters of the beneficiaries were not the ex-agitators the program was intended to attract, as a large number of ex-agitators have not been trained.
Ndiomu, who stated this in an interview with select journalists in Abuja, said it was one of his mandates to stop contracts and scholarships in the amnesty program in line with his reform agenda.
He said: “Let me quickly mention here that one of the reasons the scholarship program had to be suspended was because of the costs of the Presidential Amnesty Program.
For example, we now have a total of over 3,000 people who have been awarded scholarships.
“If you look at the bill, the tuition fees are well over 7 billion naira per session. We are talking about more than 3,000 on land, in the high seas, and there is no government institution. It needed to be looked at a second time and that’s why we had that problem with Baze University because it was simply impossible to pay tuition at these institutions.
“These were not government-owned universities; we are talking about private universities. Millions of Naira are being spent on individual students, I don’t want to blame anyone, but that was certainly reckless. It was necessary to take a second look at it, what we are doing. We are not going to suspend scholarships that have already been awarded because it was not the fault of these children to receive these scholarships.
“We have to find a way to find the funds to subvert these huge bills we are facing. That’s why it was possible to discuss with Baze University to make a certain percentage payment, so that later this year, we can alter the balance of the tuition fees.
“We hope to do that with all the other institutions before we can start talking about going back to awarding scholarships in a more rational and reasonable way according to the budget of the amnesty program.”
Ndiomu also shed light on the more than 350 Niger Deltas who have not been employed in the federal civil service despite a presidential directive in 2017.
However, he expressed optimism that something positive would be done, after having visited the Head of the Federation Civil Service, Folashade Yemi-Esan, adding that he would also visit Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the same subject.