The House of Representatives has asked the Federal Government to release N15billion appropriated for the Presidential Amnesty Programme in the 2016 Budget to enable the payment of five month arrears being owed 30,000 beneficiaries of the programme.
The House gave the advice following a motion on Tuesday at the plenary by its Minority Leader, Leo Ogor (Delta-PDP), in which he disclosed that the beneficiaries on Education Programmes (Onshore) were being owed the arrears.
The beneficiaries are paid a monthly allowance of N65,000 each.
Mr. Ogor said the beneficiaries in Nigerian universities are owing N1, 873,044, 700.00 as tution fees, in addition to a backlog of their unpaid In-Training Allowances amounting to N830,500,000.
He said 750 beneficiaries who are studying abroad have not been paid their In-Training Allowances for 2016 and 2017 totalling $4,200,000.00 (N1,332,000,000.00), while 350 of them are owing tuition fee amounting to $17,500,000.00 (N5,512,500,000.00).
Mr. Ogor added that 70 per cent of 637 students in 27 countries who are expected to round up their studies at the end of the 2016/2017 academic year may not be able to graduate due to non-payment of the tuition fees.
“More than 80 per cent of them have been excluded from studies and if the tuition fees are not settled, it may lead to their having to repeat the whole academic session, thus compounding the financial burden” Mr. Ogor said.
“One hundred graduates are currently stranded in the United States of America, Malaysia, United Kingdom and South Africa, waiting for their October 2016 to January 2017 allowances to enable them settle their bills and return back to Nigeria,” he added.
He said students in the United Kingdom were planning to hold a protest at the Nigerian High Commission over their unpaid tuition fees and allowances by the Amnesty Office, warning that such a protest would bring Nigeria to ridicule and opprobrium in the comity of nations.
Mr. Ogor attributed the challenges facing the Amnesty Programme to delayed and staggered release of funds from the 2016 Appropriation Act by the Federal Ministry of Finance, stressing that the paucity of fund has also made it extremely difficult for the Programme to meet its obligations to its workers and beneficiaries.
He said the failure by the Federal Ministry of Finance to release N15 Billion budgeted for the programme in the 2016 Appropriation Act was capable of truncating the Amnesty Programme, warning that tension and threats were already palpable in the Niger Delta Region over the development.
The Amnesty Programme was conceived by the Late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua-led Federal Government to stem the tide of disaffection, agitations and militancy in the Niger Delta area, which had resulted to loss of lives, properties and oil revenues.
When Mr. Ogor’s motion was put to vote, the House unanimously agreed to call on the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, to release the balance of N15 Billion in the 2016 Appropriation Act for the funding of the Amnesty Programme.
The House also mandated its Committee on Niger Delta Ministry to investigate the circumstances leading to funding constraints affecting the Amnesty Programme, with a view to avoiding reoccurrence, and report back to the House within two weeks for further legislative action. PREMIUMTIMES.M