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Unpaid Allowances: 183 ex-Niger Delta agitators sue FG, PAP

At the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, no less than 183 former Niger Delta agitators have initiated legal action against the federal government, alleging the cessation of their monthly allowance. These 183 ex-militants, represented by counsel Regina Okotie-Eboh, filed 17 separate suits before Justice James Omotosho, also naming the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) coordinator as a party to the case.

In one of the suits, dated December 5, 2023, and filed on December 6, 2023, ex-agitator Benneth Ofeyena sought a declaration affirming his entitlement to the mandatory monthly stipend of N65,000 as a Phase 2 beneficiary of the PAP. He referenced the program’s initiation in 2009 by the government through a Federal Government Amnesty Proclamation Notice following a truce between the agitators and the government. Additionally, he sought a declaration that the failure or refusal of the defendants to pay him the stipend from October 2012 to the present date was illegal and unlawful.

Consequently, Mr. Ofeyena 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 also requested an order for the defendants to pay him the same monthly stipend from May 2023 onwards, along with an additional request for N5 million each as the cost of filing the suits.

In the remaining 16 separate suits, the ex-agitators sought similar reliefs, highlighting their status as beneficiaries of the government’s amnesty program since its inception in 2009 during the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration. They expressed confusion over the halt in payment of the N65,000 stipend despite the federal government’s yearly budgetary allocation of over N60 billion for the program.

Among the plaintiffs in the other 16 suits are individuals such as Oyemo Ezi, Suru Michael, Albert Tamaraudouye, Alex Sile, Allen Ikiyou, Aaron Williams, Abisere Alfred, Amuluku Daniel, Amuluku Julius, Belele Karina, and others.

During the proceedings of the case involving Mr. Ofeyena and Maj-Gen. Barry Tariye Ndiomu (retd.), the ex-interim administrator of PAP, and the federal government, Mr. Ofeyena testified as the sole plaintiff before Justice Omotosho. He attested to his witness statement on oath, submitted on December 6, 2023, as evidence and urged the court to grant his reliefs. Mr. Ofeyena recounted the agreement between the government and the ex-agitators in 2009, where they surrendered their arms and renounced militancy. As proof, he mentioned laying down a pump action rifle at the time.

Additionally, Mr. Ofeyena mentioned that after completing the training program at the demobilisation camp, he received a personal identity card of the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme and a certificate of successful completion of the demobilisation program. He also received a certificate of participation from the United Nations Delegated Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Team from Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. These documents included a unique code embedded in their identity cards and certificates issued to all beneficiaries of the amnesty program, further confirming his status contrary to the defense’s submission.

Mr. Ofeyena informed the court that he received the monthly stipend of N65,000 only from February 2012 to October 2012 before it was abruptly stopped. The judge admitted the documents presented as evidence and marked them as exhibits.

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

In a related case, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/673/2023, involving 138 ex-militants against the PAP interim administrator and the government, witness Oyemo Ezi testified. Following cross-examination by the defendants’ lawyers, the judge adjourned the matter until April 23 for the defense to present their case.

On Thursday, President Bola Tinubu appointed Dennis Otuaro as the new administrator of PAP, replacing Ndiomu, who had served as the interim program administrator since September 2022.

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