By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt, Simeon Utebor, Yenagoa
Stakeholders in the Niger Delta have agreed that the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) should end immediately after the integration of all the beneficiaries of the scheme.
The stakeholders such as traditional rulers, political leaders, past and present officers of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide reached the decision when they met with the Administrator of PAP, Col. Milland Dixion Dikio (retd) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Wednesday.
Some of the leaders urged the Federal Government to ensure that the programme was given the needed financial support to execute its reintegration phase so as to bring it to an end.
But the stakeholders insisted that the Federal Government should achieve all conceptualised benefits for PAP before bringing it to the end.
They thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing Dikio as the interim administrator and expressed optimism that with him PAP would realise its objectives.
The leaders also called on Dikio to clean the Augean stable in the amnesty office by identifying and firing all the person that had used the PAP as a conduit pipe.
They observed that the bad eggs in the amnesty office had derailed the programme because of their greed and fraudulent activities stressing that without removing such officials PAP would continue to have crisis.
They appealed to all the people in the region to support Dikio and commended the administrator for taking the programme back to the original owners.
On the issue of reintegration and empowerment, they advised the administrator to consider agriculture as a major component of his plans and to revive the training centres of the PAP.
In his remarks, an elder statesman and nationalist, Chief Edwin Clark, urged the Federal Government not to rush to end the amnesty programme.
Clark said: “I and other elders from the Niger Delta will continue to work with you to ensure your tenure succeeds. I want to urge all to continue to do all that is possible for us to keep the peace as we continue to fight for justice, equity and fairness in Nigeria.
“I equally urge everybody that is gathered here that through you and all our other brothers in the region to give our son, our brother the cooperation for him to succeed.”
Also speaking, the host governor, Douye Diri, represented by his Commissioner for Ijaw Affairs, Mr. Patrick Erasmus, said the government was willing to make available office to house the Amnesty programme in Bayelsa.
He expressed delight at the summit being held in the state, saying that the amnesty was a programme that should be owned by all the Niger Deltans.
“Bayelsa State is keen to have the office of the amnesty in this state. This summit is kind of a forum to interrogate the programme and to know where they got it wrong and the areas they have fared well.
In his goodwill message, an Ijaw leader, Mr. T.K Ogoriba said: “I don’t want to believe that the Amnesty programme is scam, we are hopeful that our aspirations and dreams will come through.”
He urged for support from all to ensure that the Interim Administrator of the programme succeed in restructuring and championing the course of the struggle.
Also, a former President of Ijaw Youth Council, Mr. Udengs Eradiri, said Dikio had good plans and programme in place but prayed God to help the administration to deal with the politicians that had consistently frustrated the former coordinators.
In his remarks, Colonel Dikio said he convened the stakeholders’ summit to interact with the custodians of the region.
He said the meeting afforded him the opportunity to understand some of the plights of the people and promised to quarterly hold similar engagements in the region.
The amnesty boss said his vision was to capture all beneficiaries of PAP and integrate them into the scheme urging the region to support him to achieve the mandate.
Dikio advised ex-agitators not to make protests a culture of pressing for issues in the Niger Delta noting that after 11 years of the programme, the approach in passing out message was not yielding the desired results.
He averred that the ex-agitators in the course of protesting about the underdevelopment in the region had destroyed the already existing infrastructures thus making the region to remain in its old state.
Highlighting the demerits of the protest in the region, Dikio said: “The approach of protest over the years has scared many businesses away from the region. Therefore, we must find creative ways to bring back businesses to the region.
“The Amnesty is not just the programme; there are a lot in the package. The programme does not only accommodate arms bearers alone but also the impacted communities in the region.”
He promised that stakeholders meetings would be held regularly, at least once in a quarter to aggregate the views of the people of the region.
He also promised that liaison offices in the region would function as the headquarters to reduce the incessant visits to Abuja.