The Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) has said that delegates of the programme will henceforth be trained to dominate the maritime sector, agriculture and other areas of comparative advantage in the Niger Delta region.
Dikio said it had become expedient for beneficiaries of PAP to get actively involved in activities and empowerment programmes that would guarantee food security of the region and the country.
The interim administrator, in a speech he delivered at the Convocation Investiture Ceremony of the Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State, said it was risky to continue depending on other regions for food supply.
A copy of the speech made available in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, indicated that PAP has over 400 ex-agitators being trained in various faculties at the Gregory University under the programme’s formal education scholarship schemes.
Dikio said: “We are also looking at food security. Most of the foods we eat come from other places. If the supply chain is cut off, it means you starve and without food security, you don’t have any security”, he said.
Dikio insisted that the Niger Delta has a comparative advantage in the maritime sector saying it was time the ex-agitators took control of all the opportunities in the sector.
He said PAP under his administration would train, empower and mentor beneficiaries to defend the economy against the old system of doling out handouts and abandoning the trainees to their fate.
He said: “There are unique attributes of the Niger Delta. Can we train, empower people to dominate the maritime economy? We can because it is an area where we have a comparative advantage.
“It is a huge industry out there that we need to dominate. We are going to rethink what we are doing to reflect the areas of comparative advantage and mastery so we can dominate those areas effectively.
“The maritime industry is dominated by people from South East Asia and they don’t even have enough people. Lagos has a huge market. We are going to partner with people who have the wherewithal to put their feet down to dominate the maritime sector.”
Dikio said to develop the Niger Delta region, stakeholders must pay attention to manpower development adding that people should de-emphasise on protest as a means of agitation.
He said protests heightened tension in the region and discouraged investors adding that such practice should be replaced with advocacy for excellence.
He said: “We have over time become known as a region of people who are constantly protesting. During my maiden tour, we emphasised that a toxic environment is antithetical to development.
“You cannot have industries established in environment where there is constant uproar. I challenge you scholars to adopt a new approach to protest which is advocacy of excellence.”
Describing former Goodluck Jonathan as an epitome of excellence, Dikio appealed to scholars to emulate the sterling qualities of the former President.
Dikio said payment of monthly stipends to ex-agitators should not be regarded as one of the achievements of PAP as the programme was mainly designed to facilitate the development of the Niger Delta region.
He said to reposition the scheme to its original purpose, there must be full activation and implementation of the Niger Delta Recovery Plan, migration away from the institutional silo mentality as well as departure from tokenism in training and empowerment PAP beneficiaries through a more deliberate and coherent strategy.
He said: “The Presidential Amnesty Programme is, therefore, only one leg of a comprehensive package and the sub-par performance to date of other initiatives may be understood in part as the dilemma of a four part engine aircraft flying on only one.
“The original philosophy was that all pillars would kick in and be operational simultaneously as the disarmament phase of the Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration was being concluded.
“The operation of all pillars was to have a symbiotic nexus with the reintegration aspect of the Presidential Amnesty Programme because the opportunities created by activities in the other three pillars were to be filled partly by products of Presidential Amnesty Programme’s training and empowerment schemes.
“It, therefore, stands to reason that the full operationalization of all pillars of the Niger Delta Recovery Plan would not only optimize Presidential Amnesty Programme’s performance but have phenomenal positive impact on conflict management in the Niger Delta region.
“Against the backdrop of the foregoing, it is an immediate and cardinal priority of my stewardship to re-assess the organizing principles and philosophy of the Presidential Amnesty Program’s training and empowerment schemes.
“With the support and encouragement of my superiors, all aspects of our activities at the Presidential Amnesty Programme are being streamlined to reflect the new commitment to deliver well-planned outcomes.
“The mission of the Presidential Amnesty Program as it ought to be is to move every delegate/beneficiary from being dependent on the monthly stipend to being net contributors the economy of the Niger Delta Region and country either as entrepreneurs or employable persons on the strength of subject mastery.
“The training and empowerment schemes would now be preceded by a basic orientation training course designed to prepare every Presidential Amnesty Programme beneficiary to optimize any of the training and empowerment schemes they choose.
“The emphasis is on training and empowerment schemes that deliver real sustainable value as opposed to tokenism as was the case. Of course, priority would be for activities in the value chain with affinity to the natural and geographic realities of the beneficiaries.
“Our ethos going forward is train, employ and mentor. In this manner, products of the Presidential Amnesty Programme will be a shining beacon of hope and concrete possibilities of what a choice for non-violence can deliver in the Niger Delta Region.”