X-Raying Dikkio’s Two Years Tenure as Presidential Amnesty Programme Boss

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By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

About two years ago, when President Muhammadu Buhari removed Professor Charles Dokubo (now late), as the interim Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, and in his place, appointed Mbiama, Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State-born Colonel Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd), stakeholders were happy for varying reasons.

Centrally, their happiness, going by commentaries, was anchored on the fact that as a Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) 21st Regular Combatant Course graduate, who was later appointed the Academy Cadets Adjutant in recognition of his leadership qualities and voluntarily retired in the rank of Colonel in July 2004, after many years of blameless service to his nation, Dikkio will seamlessly design programmes that sustainably empower Niger Delta ex-agitators as well as put into operation Strategic Implementation Action Plan to massively develop the Niger Delta,

Within that period of his appointment, I recall posting a piece entitled A note for Millard Dikkio in the Guardian Nigeria Newspaper, precisely on September 23, 2020, find the link https://guardian.ng/opinion/a-note-for-milland-dixon-dikio-the-new-amnesty-boss/.

The referenced piece, among other things, drew the attention of Dikkio to the fact that the appointment has thrust yet another responsibility on him- an extremely important destiny; to complete a process of socioeconomic rejuvenation of the Niger Delta youths that successive administrations in the country have spent far too long a time to do. And, therefore, called on him (Dikio) to study history, study the actions of his predecessors, to see how they conducted themselves and discover the reasons for their victories or their defeats so that he can avoid the latter and imitate the former.

Two years after that post, I cannot say categorically whether the PAP Coordinator kept to the advice. But the present instinct in the Niger Delta explains two things; first, apart from the fact that the excitement which hitherto rends the space has like light faded, jeer has since overtaken the cheers of performance while fears have displaced reason, resulting in an entirely separate set of consequences – irrational hatred and division.

Out of many examples of such baskets of complaint, the most recent and of course most resounding came from a call by the South-South Wing of ex-agitators on President Buhari to sack Millard Dikkio, the Interim Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.

The statement, which was signed by one General Paul Agge, according to media reports, alleged that Col. Dikkio has gone astray from the cardinal objective upon which the amnesty programme was founded.

Agge said: “The amnesty programme under Dikkio’s watch has witnessed a high level of nepotism and favouritism. Dikkio only trained those that are close to him or recommended by his friends and associates. He abandoned youths from the creeks of the Niger Delta region who are supposed to be real beneficiaries.

“In view of these facts, we call on Mr President not to reappoint him as interim or make him a substantive coordinator.

Continuing, the Group added; “The Niger Delta amnesty beneficiaries need as a coordinator someone who understands the creeks and has participated in the struggle for the liberation of the Niger region.

“To ignore this advice by Mr President could mean an invitation of anarchy in the region as so many Niger Delta youths that are supposed to benefit from amnesty programme have been schemed out or ignored by Dikkio and his men. Even those that have been trained are left without jobs or empowerment.

“Many may go back to the creeks to continue with the abandoned struggle as a result of joblessness.

“Dikio is the worst Coordinator the office has ever had and, therefore, should be removed to pave way for a more competent administrator that understands the dynamics and politics of the struggle.

“We are for peace and part of the steps towards building an enduring peace in the region is by immediate removal of this non-performer.”

For me, the underlying objective of this piece is not to chastise any individual or group. Rather, what is happening is merely an important phase of transition aimed at bringing the obnoxious negative peace in the programme to the surface where it can be seen and treated.

Just like a boil can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicine of air and light. This piece holds the opinion that injustice in the amnesty programme must likewise be exposed, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured. Period!

As an incentive, Nigerians with critical interest have for too long asked questions about some grey and unclear aspects of the programme and received responses that seem to be substantive but in the actual sense of it, they are not.

Some of these citizens today feel as if they are being manipulated. Their frustration is further fed by the awareness that responses/feedback they receive from the media only breeds cynicism.

As noted in my previous intervention on a similar topic, the questions begging for an answer(s) are; how long was the Presidential Amnesty Programme initially structured to last? How many ex-militants were originally enlisted for the programme? How many have been trained? How many are still undergoing training? What stage is the programme; the Disarmament and demobilization process, rehabilitation/ training processes, or the Strategic Implementations/Action Plan for the holistic development of Niger Delta as a region?

How many of the ex-militants are currently receiving an allowance? What is the amount? Is it the same amount approved right in 2008 or has it been reviewed? What is the fate of those that were youthful then, but today are mature adults with families? Are they still dependent on the stipend as approved in 2009 or has the Amnesty Office reviewed such allowances upward to accommodate their new status?

Providing answers to these questions and drawing experience from similar programmes as implemented abroad are the two objectives of this piece.

Thus, if Dikkio is able to provide these answers or correct the above challenges as listed in the referenced statement; it will, in my view, be a most powerful accomplishment for earning new respect and emulation. If not, it will equally go down the anal of history.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374

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