Alleged unpaid entitlements: 183 ex-Niger Delta agitators sue FG, Presidential Amnesty Programme

No fewer than 183 former Niger Delta agitators have dragged the Federal Government (FG) to a Federal High Court in Abuja over allegations bordering on the alleged stoppage of their monthly allowance.

The 183 ex-militants, in 17 separate suits filed by their counsel, Regina Okotie-Eboh, before Justice James Omotosho, also joined the coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) in the matter.

In one of the suits marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/675/2023, dated Dec. 5, 2023, but filed on December 6, 2023, an ex-agitator, Benneth Ofeyena, sought a declaration that he is entitled to the mandatory monthly stipend of N65,000 as a beneficiary of Phase 2 of the PAP.

He said the programme was initiated by the FG via a Federal Government Amnesty Proclamation Notice issued in 2009 upon a truce reached between the FG and them.

He also sought a declaration that the defendants’ failure and/or refusal to pay the monthly stipend of $65,000 from October 2012 until date to him as a beneficiary is illegal and unlawful.

The ex-militant, therefore, prayed for an order directing the defendants to pay him the sum of N8,255,000.00 (eight million two hundred and fifty-five thousand naira), representing the mandatory monthly stipend of N65,000.00 for the period from October 2012 to April 30, 2023.

He sought an order directing the defendants to pay him the mandatory monthly stipend of $65,000.00 from May 2023 until date.

Ofeyena equally sought an order directing the defendants to pay N5 million each as the cost of filing the suits

In the other 16 separate suits before Justice Omotosho, the ex-agitators sought the same relief.

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They told the court that they had been beneficiaries of the government’s amnesty programme since 2009, when it was initiated by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration, and wondered why the payment of the N65,000 was stopped despite the yearly budget of over N60 billion appropriated for the said programme by the Federal Government.

In the 16 other suits, some of the plaintiffs include Oyemo Ezi, Suru Michael, Albert Tamaraudouye, Alex Sile, Allen Ikiyou, Aaron Williams, Abisere Alfred, Amuluku Daniel, Amuluku Julius, and Belele Karina, among others.

When the matter between Benneth Ofeyena and Maj-Gen. Barry Tariye Ndiomu (rtd.), ex-Interim Administrator of PAP, and the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), listed as 1st and 2nd defendants, was called, the sole plaintiff, Ofeyena, gave his testimony as a prosecution witness before Justice Omotosho.

Ofeyena, while being led in evidence by his lawyer, Okotie-Eboh, adopted his witness statement on oath, which he deposed to on Dec. 6, 2023, as his evidence in court and urged the court to grant all his reliefs.

He said the FG and the ex-agitators, including himself, reached a truce in 2009 to surrender their arms and renounce militancy.

Ofeyena told the court that he laid down a pump action riffle at the time.

He said that in return, the FG pledged to institute programmes to assist the beneficiaries’ disarmament, demobilisation, rehabilitation, and provision of reintegration assistance to the militants.

He said after the completion of the training programme at demobilisation camp, he was given a personal identity card of the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme and a certificate of successful completion of the demobilisation programme.

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He was also given a certificate of participation by the United Nations (UN) Delegated Kingian Non-violence Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Team from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Besides, he testified that he was given a unique code that was embedded in their identity cards and certificates issued to all the beneficiaries of the amnesty programme, among others.

He said all these were to prove a point that he was one of the beneficiaries, contrary to the defense submission.

Ofeyena, however, said that he was only paid the monthly stipend of N65,000 from February 2012 to October 2012 before it was stopped.

Justice Omotosho admitted the documents tendered in evidence and marked them as exhibits.

After cross-examination by PAP lawyer Babatunde Alajogun and counsel for FRN, Maimuna Lami-Shehu, the judge adjourned the matter until May 6 for the defense to open their case.

Also in the sister case marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/673/2023, between 138 ex-militants against PAP interim administrator and FRN, Oyemo Ezi, one of the witnesses, testified, and after he was cross-examined by the defendant’s lawyers, Justice Omotosho adjourned the matter until April 23 for defense to open their case.

It would be recalled that President Bola Tinubu had, on Thursday, appointed Dr. Dennis Otuaro as the new administrator of PAP.

Otuaro replaced Ndiomu, who had served as interim administrator of the programme since September 2022. (NAN)

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