A new vista opened for the Presidential Amnesty Programme this week with the assumption of office of Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd) as the new administrator of the programme. Established in 2010 following the proclamation of unconditional amnesty for militant agitators in the oil-rich Niger Delta in 2009 by the federal government under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the Amnesty Programme was designed to coordinate efficaciously, the Disarmament, Demobilisation and the Reintegration (DDR) of the about 30,000 ex-agitators who accepted the offer of amnesty. The DDR process itself was conceived to further deepen safety and security in the Niger Delta while other components of government at all tiers intensify efforts to right the perceived wrongs that led to the militant agitations in the region.
While it is not in doubt that the Presidential Amnesty Programme has helped calm frayed nerves and contributed to the relative peace the nation is enjoying in the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea, available facts however indicate that the programme, in its over a decade of existence, has failed to realise its full potential of mass empowerment of thousands of ex-agitators in the Niger Delta who have agreed to abandon every form of militancy and agitations for a more sustainable way of life.
To be candid, each coordinator of the programme had tried to build on the excellent path laid down by Chief Timi Alaibe, who was the first presidential adviser on Niger Delta and coordinator of the programme. They have achieved different levels of successes, but the fact that their best may not have been good enough can be seen in the current state of the Amnesty Programme.
Some analysts have argued that the federal government may have boxed itself into a cul-de-sac with the programme which was meant to be a temporary initiative, but now being extended ad infinitum because it seems not to know how to bring it to an end. This situation was worsened by the apparent failure of the last two coordinators of the programme – Brig-Gen. Paul Boroh (rtd) and Professor Charles Quaker Dokubo.
However, the federal government seems set to rework the programme with a view to giving it value once again. President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent appointment of Col. Dikio as the new administrator of the Amnesty Programme is seen by knowledgeable stakeholders in the region and beyond as a bold step in the long over-due bid to return the Amnesty Programme to its original mandate. With Col. Dikio’s experience – professionally and academically, analysts are convinced that the new helmsman is well equipped to bring the programme back on course. The Mbiama, Ahoada West local government area of Rivers State-born retired Colonel is an alumnus of the prestigious Baptist High School, Port Harcourt and had a fulfilling military career during which he occupied different leadership positions and acquired experiences which will surely be needed in the task of turning the Amnesty Programme around. As a member of the 21st Regular Combatant Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) for example, he was appointed the Academy Cadets Adjutant in recognition of his leadership qualities.
This led to his posting to the elite Nigerian Army Armoured Corps on commission as a Second Lieutenant effective January 3, 1977, thus beginning a military career in which he distinguished himself as a seasoned professional in the various assignments he was saddled with.
A versatile individual, Dikio in the course of his military assignment was tasked with responsibilities and assignments at the the command, diplomatic, staff and teaching departments of the Nigerian military.
He distinguished himself in the various assignments and his excellence in service was recognized with the medals he was decorated while on ECOMOG, OAU and UN peacekeeping assignments. He is also a tested conflict resolution expert with numerous field engagements and policy advisory roles at both local and international levels. His flair for languages enables him to communicate effectively in whatever environment he was deployed.
In order to stop cross border rebel activities that had the potential to drag Guinea and Liberia into war, he led an Advance team in November 2000 that conducted an extensive reconnaissance mission throughout the length of the Guinea-Liberia borders in his capacity as the military adviser/principal programme officer (Peacekeeping) at ECOWAS Executive Commission.
Noted for his high standard of discipline, excellence and integrity, Dikio voluntarily retired from the Nigeria Army after attaining the rank of Colonel in July 2004. After retirement, Dikio went into consultancy, putting the experience he acquired in the military at the service of humanity.
It was also believed that these qualities and the desire to turn the Amnesty Programme around may have earned him the appointment from Buhari. To use the popular cliché, Dikio is a round peg in a round as President Buhari moves to rework the Amnesty Programme.
– Collins, an environmentalist and Niger Delta activist, lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State