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 Amnesty Office: Can Dikio make a difference?

Amnesty Office: Can Dikio make a difference?


The lofty ideal behind the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) seems to have been overshadowed by allegations of financial improprieties against its past leaders. A new leadership just took over at the agency. What difference can it make? MIKE ODIEGWU reports

National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno recently gave a damning verdict about the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP). He said over N700bn had been wasted on the scheme, which was initiated by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua to stop militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

The NSA blamed the wastage on corruption and lack of transparency by persons saddled with the responsibility of managing the programme in the past. “N712billion was wasted, basically unaccounted for and this is due to so many issues, corruption being at the fore. This presidential amnesty programme is supposed to be a very serious programme for the federal government”, he said.

No sooner had the NSA ended his assessment of the programme than strident voices of various stakeholders wafted from the creeks of the Niger Delta to fault him. Most people, who criticized the NSA, only disagreed with his position that the presidency should discontinue the programme.

The Niger Delta leaders, who flayed Monguno for advising the President to terminate PAP did not fault the challenges bedevilling PAP as expressed by the NSA. They are aware of the monumental corruption that has characterized PAP since its inception. They were among those, who sent petitions to the NSA indicting some of the past managers of the scheme and calling for their replacement.

Allegations of corrupt practices against most past PAP coordinators came in torrents. Stakeholders from the region even held processions blocking major roads in protest against most of the PAP coordinators accusing them of various forms of misdeeds and called for their removal and prosecution. Most of the coordinators were indicted and fired by the Presidency.

Indeed, the revelations of Monguno lent credence to the earlier fears that President Muhammadu Buhari was contemplating scrapping PAP. Shortly after the last Coordinator of PAP, Prof. Charles Dokubo was suspended in February 2020 by Buhari, who appointed a caretaker committee to take charge of the programme, the fears grew into tension in the region. The move to proscribe the scheme was so strong that various interest groups, stakeholders and leaders from the region rose against it. Perhaps, following consultations, the presidency dropped the idea.

Indeed, many stakeholders believe that PAP has been mismanaged by persons, who superintended over the scheme. They think that if the kind of money Monguno sad could not be accounted for was judiciously deployed, the mandate of the scheme would have since been realized. Like other typical Niger Delta interventionist programmes, some of the managers of PAP became opportunists and saw the scheme as an avenue to amass wealth. They forgot the reasons behind the scheme.

The Presidential Amnesty Programme started on July 11, 2009, following an amnesty proclamation for Niger Delta militants, who engaged the government in arms struggle crippling oil production and wreaking monumental havoc on the economy. They wanted a fair share of the wealth from their region.

The scheme was launched with the mandates to stop the volatility in the region through Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR). Though the scheme has made appreciable progress in the areas of disarmament and demobilisation, stakeholders believe that its reintegration phase has been fraught with challenges bordering on corruption and lack of commitment by most of the past managers of the programme. They, however, want the scheme to continue since it has yet to accomplish its mandate.

Pressure groups like the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide captured the position of the region when grapevines hummed with the move to terminate the scheme. The IYC President, Timothy Igbifa, vehemently opposed it insisting that PAP had yet to achieve its mandates.

He said: “At the inception of the programme, the Federal  Government pledged its commitment to carry out the disarmament, demobilisation, rehabilitation and provision of reintegration assistance to the ex-militants. These, it said,

were major preconditions to address wider development challenges in the Niger Delta.

“Whereas we acknowledge that the disarmament phase was swiftly done by the government, other phases have remained largely unfulfilled. The federal government should fulfil all the promises it made to the repentant militants before thinking of discontinuing the programme. Otherwise, we will consider it as the highest level of insincerity and a deliberate ploy to play on the collective intelligence of the people of the region”.

The President listened to the concerns raised by Igbifa and other Niger Delta groups and opted to carry out some reforms in the scheme. He changed the nomenclature of the manager of the programme from Coordinator to Administrator and appointed Col. Dixion Dikio (retd) as the first Administrator of PAP.

But how far can Dikio go? Dikio came highly recommended as people described him as a principled and disciplined gentleman. With his rich background, it is believed that he can clear the Augean stable, reposition the programme to its original form and dislodge buccaneers and vultures snuffing life out of the scheme.

Dikio is expected to use his reputation, experience and antecedents to resist opportunists, who will mount pressure on him to drop his vision and continue with business as usual.

The new administrator has promised not to disappoint Buhari, who gave him the appointment and the Niger Delta people, who are hoping on him to transform PAP. He vowed to deliver quality service to the people of the region.

Dikio further promised to reposition PAP to run in harmony with the strategic objectives of the Federal Government saying he was determined to work assiduously to refocus the programme to deliver optimally on its mandate of achieving sustainable stability in the Niger Delta.

To achieve his vision, he vowed to always solicit the cooperation and support of all and focus on restoring the core mandate of transforming the ex-agitators from militancy to productive employment and ultimately as change agents, in line with the adopted model already approved and recognized even by the United Nations (UN).

He said he would ensure the full reintegration of all those captured in the programme; develop and execute a more robust entrepreneurial programme that would provide the right skill set in line with the new vision of taking the Amnesty Programme to the ex-agitators and evolve a new holistic training approach.

Indeed, most leaders from the region have called on all the stakeholders to hold Dikio by his promise. They appeal to petition writers and those, who have already launched a media trial against Dikio to sheathe their swords and give the PAP administrator a breathing space to pursue his vision for the region.

An Ijaw leader and founder, Network for the Defence of Democratic and Good Governance (NDDGG), High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, called on the Niger Delta to support Dikio. Jackrich, who is also the Leader of  Kengema Unity Forum (KUF), said since the expectations were high against the backdrop of mismanagement of PAP, it was only reasonable to allow Dikio to implement his vision.

He said: “Colonel Milland Dixon Dikio (Rtd) is from Mbiama-Engenni In Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State and a bonafide Ijaw son of the Engeni extraction.

“Milland Dikio grew up in the village, speaks Engenni fluently and was a pillar of support to the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Engenni chapter back in the day before joining the NDA and his boundless contributions while serving as a military officer speak for themselves as one who embodies the spirit and interest of the Ijaw nation. He is not only Ijaw,  spirit soul and body, he is from the Niger Delta too.

“At least this has corrected the insinuation that he is not an Ijaw son and therefore won’t be welcomed. I, therefore, use this medium to allay the fears of some Ijaws who are unsettled by this appointment to worry less and give our son all the needed support and solidarity to enable him to succeed in this job for in collective interest.”

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