PAP Award as Honour for Niger Deltans, By RAY UMUKORO

The 2023 New Telegraph newspaper awards drew a huge cast of outliers and top flyers in both the public and private sector. The awards spectrum was wide, covering critical sectors of the socio-economic and political ecosystems. But by far, the most outstanding award of the night was the 2023 Most Innovative Government Agency of the Year Award hauled home by the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP).

It was a fitting reward and recognition epaulet for the unrelenting innovations brought to the Programme by retired Major-General Barry Tariye Ndiomu, its Interim Administrator. And this is not to diminish other awards and awardees, a rich cast of stellar performers including Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Peter Mbah of Enugu, Bala Mohammed of Bauchi, Nasir Idris of Kebbi, Douye Diri of Bayelsa and Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe. Some human rights activists and lawyers, business people, chief executives of top-of-the-crest organisations and some corporates made the prestigious ensemble of awardees.

In spite of this lush cast of awardees, the PAP award as the most innovative government agency sticks up a halo of peculiarity both in essence and excellence. If anything, it indexes the objectivity and thoroughness of the newspaper’s award. And to be honoured in the area of innovative management is a clear testament to the creative thinking and profound managerial fecundity brough to bear on the Programme by Ndiomu, a retired military officer who has continued to exhibit a rare mastery of his brief at the Programme.

Appointed in September 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari as Interim Administrator of the PAP, Ndiomu moved fast to restore the dignity and relevance of the Programme which over the years appeared to have become a victim of the malaise and administrative miasma that has tainted the nation’s public service. Ndiomu’s appointment was not an accident or a mere happenstance in the life of a nation. President Buhari who openly showed his predilection to upping the nation’s productive capacity in petroleum products while still working at diversifying the economy was keen on ending the streak of leadership instability at PAP and the stench of fiscal malfeasance that dogged the Programme resulting in high turnover of chief executive officers, six chief executives from 2009 to 2022. While some of the past Administrators were caught up in a web of allegations of corruption leading to their dismissal, others got the boot on the ground of ineffective leadership typified by ceaseless agitations by pockets and camps of ex-agitators whose plight the Programme was conceived to address.

Buhari had therefore demanded for a true Niger Deltan with a track record of integrity, experience and cultured administrative pedigree. The lot fell on Ndiomu whose track record at the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group, (ECOMOG), when Nigeria won global acclaim for the stellar performance of the Nigerian military in peace-keeping in the West African region lent him to the job of leading the PAP. The Programme needed a reformer and zero-compromise leader and Buhari found one in Ndiomu, a former Garrison Commander, Nigerian Army Headquarters (NA-AHQ); Chief of Training and Operations, (CTOP), Army Headquarters; a lawyer; a policy strategist forged in the foundry of the revered National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS); and a man upskilled at the Harvard Kennedy School in the United States and the Germany-based George C. Marshall Centre for European Security Studies.

All of this sculpted Ndiomu into a disciplined military officer of the highest ethical values. And ever since September 2022, the reformer has wrought terrific reforms within the PAP hierarchy such that the old order of multiple enrolment by some ex-agitators, multiple payments into accounts with same Bank Verification Number (BVN), among other fiscal abuses verging on corruption had been reduced significantly.

Ndiomu inherited a dubious accounting structure which left many holes for manipulation. To end or curtal the financial hemorrhage, he effected the audit of a deeply flawed payment system that turned the monthly payment of stipends to a bazaar. Some of the statistics were scary. A good 513 persons were found to be linked to multiple accounts. This means that thousands of accounts where the monthly stipends were paid into were ghost accounts used to siphon money by a syndicate made up of both insiders and outsiders.

The audit also revealed that aside personnel fraud, contracts with vendors were brazenly inflated or fraudulently manipulated to cream huge cash out of the system. Through Ndiomu’s diligence and insistence on the adoption of global best practices in contracting, such contracts were renegotiated and re-evaluated at cheaper costs.

It should be emphasized that Ndiomu’s tool box of innovative leadership has transformed ex-agitators from monthly stipend-receivers to entrepreneurs with the launch of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (Beneficiaries) Cooperative Society Limited (PAPCOSOL). The novel scheme, entirely the brainchild of Ndiomu, has empowered business-oriented ex-agitators in the region.

At the launch, he described the initiative as a “novel alternative economic development scheme designed to create a more viable means of livelihood for ex-agitators with socio-economic development of their communities and the Niger Delta region in general as an intended consequence.” It is for such and many more that the award finds both essence and relevance.

Prince Ita Henshaw, Technical Assistant to the Interim Administrator who received the award on half of the Programme, described it as a testimony in recognition of the worthy efforts of the Ndiomu-led management team.

Obviously, Ndiomu arrived at PAP with a mindset of development and human capital empowerment. He resisted the temptation to walk the old patchy path strewn with boobytraps and landmines that cut short the stay of his predecessors. He has to dig deep into his strategy wellspring of experience and courage to lead. He applied this to his medium and long-term goals of transforming the Niger Delta ex-agitators to entrepreneurs and creators of wealth. The award is therefore a clear indication that light is never hidden under a bushel. It is not always that the media goes all hairs down to celebrate the people. But modern journalism has been structured in such a manner that at all times, it must wheel humanity to the path of development.

The award is from a development-minded newspaper to a development-focused agency. It’s a win not just for PAP but for the people of the Niger Delta region. A true testimony that most eloquently illustrates the passion, verve and empathy that drive the Ndiomu leadership, a leadership that is deep in innovation and versed in the rudiments of collective engagement as a major tool for achieving and sustaining peace in conflict situations.

Henshaw puts it most succinctly: “This award is dedicated to all registered beneficiaries under the Programme and it will no doubt encourage us as a team to be more proactive to do more to improve the socio-economic well-being of the ex-agitators and to sustain the existing peace in the region”.

The cooperative scheme is just one among a plethora of other innovative policies and it has revved out of the block as a success story just like the resuscitated aviation programme which has trained scores of pilots and Aircraft Maintenance Engineers. Add to that, the PAP scholarship scheme for both students in local and overseas universities. In the 21st century when degree certificates are being de-emphasized for skills and capacity to adapt to modern ICT paradigms, Ndiomu has shifted focus to non-formal education programs in skills acquisition, technical/vocational training as well as ICT trainings. This is the sense in which it is easy to see Ndiomu’s contribution in the fulfilment of President Tinubu ‘s Renewed Hope Agenda in the Niger Delta region.

There is no glory without pain. PAP won the award because an Ndiomu rolled up his sleeves to sweat and swot. The glory belongs to PAP but the real winners are the people of the Niger Delta region.

·       Umukoro, a development specialist, writes from Lagos



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.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.