General Ndiomu should not go to waste, By KEN UGBECHIE

General Ndiomu

Until March 14, this year, Major-General Barry Tariye Ndiomu (Retired) was the Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP). He was on that beat for barely a year and six months having been appointed on September 15, 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari. Yet, what Ndiomu achieved within the short period of his administration was far beyond what even the smartest bookmaker could have predicted.

The Amnesty programme has been a minefield of banana peels. A good 13 years, between 2009 when it was established and 2022 when Ndiomu was appointed, no fewer than six Administrators have presided over the Programme. Obviously, a high service mortality of CEOs.

Do you still remember them: Lucky Ochuko Ararile, (a retired Air Vice Marshal); Timi Alaibe, (a former managing director of the NDDC) and Kingsley Kuku, (a former member of the Ondo State House of Assembly). They were Special Advisers to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinators of PAP, at various times. Then came Paul Boroh, (a retired Brigadier-General); Charles Quaker Dokubo, (a professor of International Affairs) and Milland Dikio, (a retired Colonel).

Sadly, none of these men served out a full tenure of four years as recommended by law. In some cases, reports of abuse of office and unwholesome financial dealings which negated the founding objectives of PAP trailed the tenures of these CEOs precipitating in their resignations or outright dismissals.

Therefore, the appointment of Ndiomu by Buhari, in context, was hailed as a masterstroke. He was seen as the fit man for the job of harnessing the strength and reforming the value orientation of the ex-agitators in the creeks. He was appointed on very strong recommendations. The then President Buhari had sought for a rounded Niger Delta person who commands respect in the area. The brief was straight forward; get someone the people of the region can easily relate with, trust and have confidence in, to guide them out of the paths of violence. A father figure who will ensure that what was meant for the people, especially the ex-agitators, gets to them. The key indicator was ‘get a man of integrity’. Ndiomu ticked all the boxes and was quickly appointed by Buhari.

Those things meant for the people were clearly defined: capacity building through skills acquisition, monthly stipend and turning the ex-agitators into employable, skilled-up personnel or making them entrepreneurs and creators of wealth and jobs. Ndiomu during his brief tenure exceeded all.

For a man who was appointed at a time the critical Amnesty Programme was almost at tipping point in its slide into the nadir of inefficiency and administrative tardiness riddled with fraud and staff despondency, Ndiomu has proven that oasis of hope could emerge out of the desert of despair. He birthed a fresh spring of hope among the ex-agitators by infusing technology into the operations of the Programme. The result was a clean database of genuine ex-agitators, an effective financial system that exposed and remedied the embedded fraud in the old order. In modern management, it’s called ‘running lean and mean.’ PAP under Ndiomu ran ‘lean and mean’ but with a well-expressed human face.

Here is proof of his exemplary leadership. Before the Ndiomu dispensation, the figures for single account was 23,000 ex-agitators. However, after stringent verification and cleaning up of the database for which he became a subject of media attacks, the figure was reduced to 19,510 as at March, 2023, thus saving PAP ₦226,850,000/monthly.

In the old deliberately muddled stipend ledger, some names appeared in duplicates/triplicates; while some names were listed on both single/bulk payment list. For instance, delegates on in-training receiving ₦70,000 monthly were also on another list. Using an audit verification through BVN check, it was discovered that 513 delegates fraudulently had 1,371 accounts linked to their BVNs. Obviously, these were ghost accounts suggestive of a possible collusion with external forces, the banks.

Other details showed that so many accounts did not have BVN linked to them. One individual was receiving stipends (N65,000 monthly) for 33 persons through fraudulent means. The audit also revealed a duplicitous payment system that turned the simple monthly payment of stipends to a heist. Ndiomu stopped the rot including the culture of bloated contracts and payment of money for non-existent contracts.

The setting up of Micro-business Clusters and Cooperatives, a brainchild of Ndiomu, to empower eligible delegates remains one of the most profound legacies of the Programme. Over one billion naira was earmarked to support delegates’ micro-business startups.

There was also the launch of the Formal Education Trust Fund (FETFund), an ambitious one-billion-naira initiative with funds to be sourced from IoCs (International oil Companies), state governments of the Niger Delta as well as international development partners. Management of the FETFund is by a board of trustees comprising eminent personalities of Niger Delta, ex-agitator leaders and technical experts. This kickstarted the process for the strategic transition of the PAP into a more sustainable entity with a wider mandate targeted at the youth population of the Niger Delta region.

With these and many more, Ndiomu sustained peace in the usually feisty creeks. It is for this peace that Nigeria at a time during his tenure effectively achieved over 1.67 million barrels of crude oil production per day. It was on account of his transformational leadership at PAP that President Buhari later added another responsibility to his shoulders, this time, as the Chairman of the Federal Government’s Special Investigative Panel on Crude Oil Theft/Losses, a job he discharged with distinction.

On a few occasions, I have encountered Ndiomu. He’s the ideal military officer: knowledgeable, contemporary, courageous, reflective, disciplined, intelligent, physically fit and mentally alert. He’s the type that makes you wonder if the country is not retiring some of her military personnel too early, especially those who are still fit, willing to keep going and have so much to give.

His wears his badge with pride: Fought bravely on the frontlines in Liberia in the era of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group, (ECOMOG); served as Garrison Commander, Nigerian Army Headquarters (NA-AHQ). He climbed the ladder to the position of Chief of Training and Operations (CTOP), Army Headquarters.

A rounded professional who believes in the value of knowledge, he would later acquire a law degree from the University of Ibadan and was called to the Nigerian Bar. He is also an alumnus of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, (ASCON), Harvard Kennedy School in the United States as well as the George C. Marshall Centre for European Security Studies in Germany.

A person of such international exposure, experience, bravery, scholarship, wide knowledge bandwidth and demonstrable administrative elan should not go to waste. The Nigerian government should yet milk him as he has so much to give post-military service. Not every retiree is a weak bone. Some merely retire to begin a fresh chapter of service to humanity, to their fatherland. Examples of such abound in Asia, the Americas, Europe and other climes. Ndiomu is one of such rare breeds of ever-fit persons. He should never go to waste in the guise of retirement.

First published in Sunday Sun

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The OPINION / COLUMN is authored by independent contributors to the National Accord Newspaper. While contributors adhere to our editorial guidelines, they are not employed by the National Accord Newspaper. The perspectives and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the National Accord Newspaper or its staff.

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