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FG begins direct stipend payments to ex-militants

By The Citizen
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The Federal Government said it had started the direct payment of three months arrears of stipends owed former Niger Delta militants.

The Chief of Staff to the Office of the Special Adviser to the President and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Col. Dedis Abel (retd.), who disclosed this on Thursday, promised that the Federal Government would henceforth be paying the former agitators directly.

Speaking during the launch of the direct payment system in Port Harcourt, Abel the era of paying ex-militants their stipends through their leaders was gone.

He pointed out that the current step taken by government became necessary following reports of complicity and short-changing of the ex-fighters by their leaders.

Abel explained that some of the former militants were paid as low as N20,000 as against the N65,000 monthly stipends earmarked for each of them.

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According to him, 'The Amnesty Office took the decision to pay the ex-agitators directly following reports of complicity and short-changing of some of them by the leaders.

'Reports revealed that some of the ex-agitators were paid as low as N20,000 out of the N65,000 which does not conform with the mandate of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.

'Henceforth, payment of the monthly stipend would be made directly to each beneficiary with focus to eliminate cases of fraud and shortchanging by their leaders.

'Similarly, this exercise will enable us to collect biometrics of beneficiaries and to create Bank Verification Numbers to enable government to make future payments through their individual bank accounts.'

He added that the ongoing direct payment was aimed at offsetting October, November and December arrears owed over 2,000 ex-militants drawn from Rivers State.

Abel also disclosed that 13,000 ex-agitators out of the total 30,000 amnesty beneficiaries had received formal education or vocational training in the past.

He added that the number of those who benefitted from vocational training and formal education had increased by 5,000 since Brig.-Gen. Paul Boroh (retd.) was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari to be the head of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.

He said, 'The 5,000 newly trained beneficiaries were sent to both local and foreign institutions and vocational centres to acquire knowledge and skills that would allow them become self-reliant.

'About 12,000 yet to participate in the process will be trained in the coming months. We thank Heritage Bank for its partnership and support of the Amnesty Programme.'

However, there was tight security within the Army Children Nursery and Primary School, Port Harcourt, venue of the event, just as the former militants expressed happiness that they would no longer be shortchanged by their leaders as a result of the new direct payment system. -Punch.