By Jide Ajia
The Nigerian Senate has directed Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun to release the balance sum of N15 billion in the 2016 appropriation Act for further funding of the Amnesty Programme.
Senators took the decision after considering a motion titled: “The monumental challenges facing the Amnesty Programme due to Paucity of funds” sponsored by Senator Peter Nwabushi representing Delta North.
The Senate also mandated its committee on Niger Delta to probe the circumstances leading to funding constraints besetting the Amnesty Programme with a view to avoiding re-occurrence.
Senator Nwabushi had in the motion noted with serious concerns the challenges facing the presidential Amnesty Programme arising from delays and staggered release of funds by the ministry of finance as captured in the 2016 Budget.
The Senate raised concerns that the financial challenges facing the programme was threatening the well-conceived programme as it was finding it difficult to meet its obligation to its workers and beneficiaries of the Amnesty programme.
Also, the Senate expressed worries that 30,000 beneficiaries of N65,000 Monthly allowances are being owed five months in arrears among other backlog of unpaid debt with regards to education and training aspects of the programme both home and abroad.
The motion indicated that the fund appropriated in the 2016 budget for the Amnesty programme was about N20 billion with an additional supplementary appropriation of N35 billion in late 2016, adding that the sum of N40 billion had so far been released by the Finance Ministry leaving a balance of the sum of N15 billion.
According to the Senate, there was a need to act fast because the situation was becoming very serious and capable of truncating the lofty programme as tension and threats were said to be already palpable in the Niger Delta region and capable of bringing the Nigerian Government into disrepute nationally and internationally.
The committee on Niger Delta was also mandated to investigate cases of impersonation, and how certain persons from other states like Abia were short-changed and report back in two weeks.