The Federal Government has injected N1.5 billion to support a cooperative scheme for 30,000 ex-agitators in the Niger Delta region, the Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Program, Major General Barry Ndiomu (retd.), said on Wednesday.

The PAP targeted about 30,000 Niger Delta ex-agitators aimed to ensure the self-sufficiency of the militants and reduce their dependence on the N65,000 monthly stipends.

Ndiomu who stated this during the launch of the PAP Cooperative Society Limited in Abuja said that the agency has deposited N1.5 billion at Providus Bank for the take-off of the scheme and intends to provide N500 million monthly to support the program.

According to him, the cooperative scheme is currently targeted at the ex-agitators.

He expressed optimism that as the funds increase, they would expand to impacted communities and that the scheme would also benefit several people across the region.

“We on our part, will continue to support the cooperative with additional finance and the plan going forward is to provide a minimum of N500 million every other month to sustain it.

“The whole essence is to discourage reliance on the monthly stipends which you will all agree with me has brought the culture of indolence and is not in our best interest. So we have decided that rather than give them fish we should teach them how to fish,” he said.

Ndiomu stated that the aim was to provide an alternative economic development scheme designed to create a more viable means of livelihood for ex-agitators with the socio-economic development of their communities and the region.

According to him, the cooperative scheme would be managed by the ex-agitators and closely supervised by the PAP office through their consultants, adding that the program would be managed and monitored by an Advisory Board headed by a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Francis Tabai.

He explained that the cooperative was expected to work with beneficiaries of PAP to identify businesses that aligned with skill areas, set up and turn the process into a profitable venture.

Ndiomu added that technical and business development support would be provided to beneficiaries to enable them own and turn viable business ventures that will meet essential needs, create employment and boost economic growth in the Niger Delta region.

The Interim Administrator stated that the PAP would be targeting rice production as they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with communities for the development of rice farms adding that they are in discussion with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

He said that it was hoped that the N65,000 monthly stipends would be gradually phased out by the time many of the ex-agitators become entrepreneurs.

An ex-agitator, HRM Henry Ekes in his remarks commended the scheme saying many of them have been wondering how they are going to survive since they can’t even go back to the creeks and start causing trouble.

He said other agitators were also in support of the scheme as he often advise them that this was the way to go to be self-reliant.

Ekes said it was important for them to embrace the program as it would also benefit the Niger Delta region.