The House of Representatives, on Tuesday called on the Federal Ministry of Finance to release N15 billion meant for the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme as included in the 2016 Appropriation Act.
The House also mandated its committee on Niger Delta Ministry to investigate the circumstances leading to funding constraints that had affected the smooth implementation of the amnesty programme.
This followed a motion moved by Rep. Leo Ogor (Delta-PDP).
Moving the motion, Ogor expressed concern that the Federal Ministry of Finance had not released to the Amnesty Programme N15 billion budgeted in the 2016 Appropriation Act.
He disclosed that 30,000 beneficiaries under the amnesty programme, who were paid monthly allowances of N65,000 were being owed five months arrears.
On the Education Programmes (Onshore), Ogor said that the debt to universities in the country was N1.873 billion, adding that a backlog of unpaid In-Training Allowances amounting to N830 million was also being owned.
He explained that the Educational Programme (Offshore) was also suffering the same faith as unpaid In-Training Allowances for 750 students between 2016 and 2017 was 4.200 million dollars, equivalent of N1.332 billion.
Ogor further explained that an unpaid tuition fee for 350 students amounting to 17.500 million dollars, equivalent of N5.513 billion was also being owed.
He expressed concern that 70 per cent of the 637 students in various institutions in 27 countries, who were expected to graduate at the end of the 2016/2017 academic year, may not be able to do so for non-payment of tuition fees.
“Currently, 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.
“100 graduates are currently stranded in the USA, Malaysia, United Kingdom and South Africa, waiting for their October 2016 to January 2017 allowances to enable them settle their bills and return to Nigeria.
“Also aware that the students in the United Kingdom have planned to protest at the Nigerian High Commission any moment from now for non-payment of their tuition fees and allowances by the Amnesty Office.”
This, he said, when carried out, will be not in the best interest of the country.
According to Ogor, the situation is becoming serious and capable of truncating the lofty programme, as tension is already mounting in the Niger Delta Region and among the beneficiaries of the programme.
He urged the Federal Government to give urgent attention to the matter, adding that it was capable of affecting Nigeria’s image nationally and internationally, unless the matter was addressed.
Contributing to the motion, Rep. Johnson Agbonayinma, called on lawmakers to interface with the executive to hear the plea of the amnesty office, stressing that Nigeria should be put first before any political party.
In his contribution, Deputy Whip, Rep. Pally Iriase, advised members to support the motion to avoid crisis in the country.
“The motion is very important because the agitation could become something unimaginable unless we do something fast,” he said.
The motion was unanimously adopted by members when it was put to a voice vote by the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara.
The House, therefore, urged the committee investigating the matter and report back within two weeks for further legislative action.