From Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Interim Administrator of Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Col Dixion Milland Dikio (retd), has urged former Niger Delta agitators to shelve protests as a means to express grievances, describing demonstrations as retrogressive and old-fashioned.
Dikio said instead of staging protests, beneficiaries of the PAP should adopt dialogue and other means that would not negatively affect the overall development of the region.
He spoke in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at the opening of a three-day workshop on Strategic Communication for the PAP and its delegates, organised in partnership with Facility for Oil Sector Transparency and Reform in Nigeria (FOSTERN).
He regretted that the constant blocking of the East-West road by some aggrieved amnesty beneficiaries has given a bad name to the Niger Delta region.
The PAP boss said that instead of aggrieved ex-agitators blocking crucial economic gateways in the region, they should seek other peaceful means, including dialogue, to resolve their grievances.
Dikio observed that most stakeholders in the region lacked an understanding of the PAP, which has caused them to abandon crucial issues in pursuit of lesser ones.
He said the amnesty programme was a subset of many other major initiatives designed to address the root cause of conflict in the region that led to the amnesty.
The PAP interim administrator questioned why over 20 million people should anchor their future on a programme developed for only 30,000 ex-agitators.
He stressed that the region should engage the ministries of the Niger Delta Affairs, Environment and the Niger Delta Development Commission on issues of development and environmental remediation.
‘We have the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP). We have to make the best of it. But how can we make the best out of it when we don’t even understand the essence of the Presidential Amnesty Programme?
‘The Presidential Amnesty Programme was set up as disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of 30,000 ex-agitators. If you are not among these 30,000 persons and you are in the scheme you are a visitor.
‘There is a need for clarity. At the inception of the programme, amnesty was a subset of so many other initiatives to address the reasons the armed struggle took place in the first instance. If we don’t understand it, we will leave those important things and fight over crumbs.’
Dikio regretted that many of the beneficiaries were not concerned about the major issues that led to the amnesty, but were only interested in unnecessary protests for personal gain.
‘When we don’t understand the essence of the programme, we leave those very important things of the scheme to fight over crumbs.
‘Indeed, 20 million people cannot anchor their future on a programme for 30,000 people. The amnesty programme is a very vital part because it takes care of the DDR and the manpower development needs of the impacted communities.
‘The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Ministry of Environment and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in particular, are the executive arms of the infrastructural development, that is where we have to broaden the conversation.,’ he explained.
Speaking on “Key Elements of Strategic Communications”, Lanre Arogundade noted that information shared in the programme had the capacity to destroy the very essence of the amnesty.
Arogundade said that the programme was developing a bad image outside of the region based on the attitude of some of its beneficiaries, adding that it was time to retell the story of the programme.
‘Communications is strategic when it is consistent with the organisation’s mission and values and when it can enhance the strategic positioning of an organisation,’ he said.
Participants were drawn from the nine states of the Niger Delta region and staff of the PAP.