The Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) Col. Dixion Milland Dikio (retd), has called on ex-agitators to jettison the use of protest as a method of agitation, describing it as retrogressive and old-fashioned.
The amnesty boss said instead of deploying protest, beneficiaries of the programme should adopt dialogue and other means that would not negatively affect the overall development of the region.
Dikio spoke in Port Harcourt at the opening 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 constant blocking of the East-West road by some aggrieved amnesty beneficiaries was giving a bad name to the Niger Delta region.
He said instead of blocking crucial economic gateways in the region for a protest, aggrieved ex-agitators should seek other peaceful means including dialogue to resolve their grievances.
Dikio observed that most stakeholders in the region lacked understanding of the PAP, the reason he said made them abandon major critical issues to pursue crumbs.
He said PAP was a subset of many other major initiatives designed to address the root cause of arms struggle in the region that led to the amnesty.
He said it stood logic in the head for a population of over 20 million people to anchor their future on a programme developed for only 30,000 ex-agitators.
He said instead of dissipating their energy on crumbs, 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.
He said: “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 a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) for 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 arm 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 gains.
He said: “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.”
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 having a bad image outside the region based on attitude of some of the beneficiaries, adding that it was time to retell the story of the programme.
He said: “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.”
Participants were drawn from the nine states of the Niger Delta region including members of staff of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.