Monday, November 28, 2011

Analysis: Niger Delta still unstable despite amnesty

25 November 2011

In Delta State’s Oporoza community people say they still need development, including access to clean waterWARRI, 25 November 2011 (IRIN) –

Two years after the Nigerian government granted amnesty to militants fighting mainly for development and job opportunities in the oil-rich Niger River Delta, violence has diminished, and oil revenues - which dropped at the height of the conflict - have increased. But analysts argue that the amnesty programme is flawed and will not lead to long-term peace. In the delta, former fighters are picking up their guns again, and resentment brews among those not included.

Under the amnesty, which ran from August to October 2009, militants who handed in their weapons were pardoned for their crimes, trained in non-violence, and offered vocational training in trades such as welding, in Nigeria or overseas. After attending non-violence training they are paid US$410 per month until they find work. Just over 26,000 young people have taken the amnesty package.

Most of the participants had been directly or indirectly involved in crimes including attacking oil infrastructure, oil bunkering, and kidnapping oil workers.


Those in favour of the programme say the reduced violence and improved flow of oil is a clear sign of success, but others worry the calm will not last. “Boys who accepted amnesty later went back to the creeks and carried guns again,” said Casely Omon-Irabor, a lawyer based in Warri, a major city in Delta State, who has represented militants groups for nearly six years.

His clients include John Togo, leader of the militant Niger Delta Liberation Front, who took amnesty but later returned to fighting. Omon-Irabor said the precarious peace could crumble. “[The militants] are already back - they just don’t have enough arms yet.”

Recent local and international news reports also cite “ex”-militants who say they are preparing to fight again.

Violence has declined but has not disappeared. 

Purchasing peace

Some say the generous cash hand-outs are “buying” peace. Kempare Ebipade, a former militant from Delta State, said he now helps turn thieves and kidnappers in his community over to the authorities, and is keen to find paid work. “Now is the time for peace… but if the government stops the payments, [there will be] crisis.”

“We have been able to buy peace [but] it is not sustainable - you can’t sustain paying that amount of money,” MOSOP’s Mittee said, adding that armed resurgence is as “certain as daylight”.

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