Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has finally reacted to the reported claims that there is plot to scrap the presidential amnesty programme in December, this year.
Jonathan spoke on Thursday, 15th October 2020, while playing host to new amnesty boss, Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd).
Recalls there have been tension, anxiety and fears in the Niger Delta of reported plot to scrap the presidential amnesty programme.
BIGPEN reports that leaked documents had alleging that a presidential committee set up to appraise the activities of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) may have recommended the scrapping of the programme this year. The reported recommendation had generated divergent reactions among Niger Delta stakeholders, raising concerns in the region.
According to reports, a four-man investigative panel headed by Ambassador A. A. Lawal through the office of the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd) allegedly made a recommendation for the scrapping of the programme in December 2020.
The development had triggered agitations in the region as stakeholders including ex-militants in the region became divided over the alleged proposal.
Specifically, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) had during a zoom live press conference, warned that scrapping the programme would only reopen old wounds.
He contended that President Muhammadu Buhari would be waking a sleeping lion if the programme is scrapped, maintaining that the proposal has already inflamed the tense situation in the Niger Delta.
The programme commenced on Thursday, July 11, 2009 when a proclamation of amnesty was made for Niger Delta militants who had engaged in an armed struggle for a better deal in the nation’s oil benefits.
In granting unconditional amnesty for the agitators, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua opened a window for a period of 60 days for the agitators to lay down their arms in exchange for amnesty as a step towards redressing the adverse security situation and sabotage in the oil rich region which had brought the nation’s economy to its knees then as oil production plummeted to record low.
But playing host to the Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme in Abuja, Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd), the former President, urged him to sustain the training of the ex-agitators within and outside the country.
Jonathan, particularly, urged Dikio to give priority to the sustenance of human capital development in the region in line with the objectives of the programme.
He advised Col. Dikio (rtd) to ensure that the scholarships for degree programmes within and outside the country alongside payment of monthly stipends to beneficiaries of the Programme are given the deserved priority.
The former President urged the new leader of the Amnesty Programme to avoid the temptation of taking on responsibilities beyond the funding capacity of the Office.
According to him, “One thing I should tell you also is that you should not bite more than you can chew as the saying goes. You should accommodate the projects which you think you can effectively carry out with your budget.”
Dr. Jonathan added that the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Presidential Amnesty Office have been of concern to the stakeholders even though the Amnesty Programme has fared better in terms of pursuing the objectives that inspired its establishment.
He admonished that if 70 percent of funds budgeted for the two agencies were utilized for the intended purposes, the Niger Delta region would have been better.
Dikio had visited Jonathan to kick off his consultative meetings with critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta, having met with President Muhammadu Buhari last week.
Responding to Jonathan’s admonition, Col. Dikio (rtd) hailed the former president for his historic role as the first President from the Niger Delta and midwifing the entire Amnesty process as the then Vice President to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
He added that his visit to the former President is in furtherance to his consultation with critical stakeholders in the region on how best to approach and tackle the task of productively running the office to the benefit of the region and Nigeria.
Col. Dikio (rtd) said that his vision was to restore and actualize the objectives that inspired the establishment of the Amnesty Programme through effective collaborative efforts with relevant government agencies, state governments and other stakeholders to achieve enhanced security for economic prosperity in the country.
He said “Consistent with the strategic objectives of the Federal Government, I am determined to work with all committed stakeholders to refocus the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) to its original mandate of development and security in the Niger Delta.
In a statement, Dibiaezue-Eke, Florence (Mrs), Director, Information (PAP), quoted Col. Dikio (rtd) to have highlighted priorities areas of his vision to include; “Restoration of the mandate of the Amnesty Programme to its original intent and taking service to the Niger Delta where the ex-agitators are domiciled”.
“Train the ex-agitators to become entrepreneurs who will act as agents of change thus reversing the narrative of a people dependent on stipends to self-actualized employers of labor and net contributors to the economic prosperity of the Niger Delta region.
“Coordinate and cooperate with relevant agencies set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria to compliment the efforts of the Amnesty Programme to ensure the development and security of the Niger Delta making it the most secure place to live and do business in Nigeria” etc.