Has General Barry Ndiomu (rtd), resolved the age-long ‘Gordian Knot’ which has not only haunted the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) over the years, but also spawned the syndrome of sudden death for the tenures of most of its past coordinators or Interim Administrators? The answer may be lying in the efficacy of his latest initiative as its current Interim Administrator, being the recent launch of an entrepreneurship promotional scheme – the Presidential Amnesty Programme Cooperative Society Limited (PAPCOSOL) for the ex-agitators, with the aim of facilitating their migration from dependence on stipends to life as economically fulfilled, bonafide successful entrepreneurs. This scheme as launched, even qualifies for justified attention by the current Bola Tinubu administration, to be seen as perhaps the closest effort at actualising one of the cardinal intents of the programme, which is the economic inclusion and empowerment of the beneficiaries.
The PAPCOSOL is a PAP launched N1.5 billion co-operative fund with the aim of empowering business minded ex-agitators in the Niger Delta region. At the launch of the scheme in Abuja, General Barry Ndiomu described it as a novel alternative economic development scheme, which is designed to create a more viable means of livelihood for ex-agitators. According to him, the scheme would be serviced monthly with a sum of N500 million to drive entrepreneurial initiatives by the ex- agitators in the fields of agriculture and manufacturing. To ensure the sustainability of the scheme, Ndiomu also established for it an advisory board led by a distinguished jurist and retired justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Francis Tabai, with other accomplished professionals in tow.
Seen in context, the PAPCOSOL offers a significant scope of hope for better days in the future for not only the designated ex-agitators in the Niger Delta region, but the entire region and even the whole country. Beyond the foregoing it also offers the Tinubu administration a credible template for managing youth empowerment for the region, and beyond to other areas of similar challenges. For as is clear, youth empowerment is a major challenge in the country, with existential threats to her sovereignty.
Beyond the foregoing, merits of the PAPCOSOL inl the scope it offers for integration with other empowerment factors in the region. For instance the scheme has interfaces for docking with the respective state and local governments in the region as it serves as a catalyst, model and game changer with respect to discouraging the syndrome of dependence on hand-outs by the teeming millions of youth in the region.
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For as things stand, even as PAP under Ndiomu has launched this scheme, its import as a pilot initiative, that points the way for other similar empowerment schemes, cannot be over emphasised. While on its merit it qualifies as a profound economic empowerment programme for a designated group of people, its prospects for stimulating economic empowerment for different categories of poverty stricken social groups cannot be underrated. And that is its unique selling point. Although it was launched for the ex-agitators, its impact is expected to transcend beyond their circumstances.
The PAP was launched in 2009 by the late former President Umuau Yar Adua, to assuage the angst of the armed and restive youth in the Niger Delta, who had effectively threatened the country’s oil exports with disruptive tendencies in the region. Hence, while its mission was intended to assuage the aggrieved youth, its operational trajectory over the years slipped out of sync with several aspects of its designated mission, due to the serial misreading of the founding script.
As is easily recalled, at the inception of the PAP in 2009, it was launched at the peak of youth restiveness over their economic exclusion in spite of the richness of the region in oil and gas resources. Now PAPCOSOL has come to change the picture significantly. That is why it needs not only encouragement but also expansion from the designated stake holders in the Niger Delta region.
This expectation is of particular significance to the Bola Tinubu administration as it fine tunes its plans for the Niger Delta. With experts, along with several stakeholders in the affairs of the region hailing the initiative of PAPSOSOL, the scheme offers itself for adoption by the governments at various tiers in the country courtesy of the following grounds among others. Firstly is its utility in fostering a paradigm shift in the management template for the region’s challenges especially as pertains to the youth. Secondly is its potential for mobilising the vast stocks of human capital in the region into productive private sector enterprise. Thirdly is its potential for providing political capital for the administration as cannot and should not be easily over looked.
While until Ndiomu was appointed to head the PAP – easily one of the toughest agencies of the government – it has been one tale of misgiving or the other. PAPCOSOL may have come to change the narrative with respect to the fortunes of the PAP.
This indeed is one silver bullet from the General.