Conflict Resolution And Amnesty Programme The Quest For Sustainable Development In The Niger Delta Of Nigeria
This study, through extensive field work interrogates the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta, and demonstrates how amnesty has impacted on peace. The Niger Delta region has suffered neglect from successive governments. The unbridled exploration for oil by multinationals, and neglect by the government has led to the conflict becoming intractable. In previous years, efforts at resolving the conflict in the Niger Delta included both the use of force and pacification, an approach that was a mixture of both force and dialogue. Little success seems to have been recorded using these initial mechanisms. The introduction of amnesty, however, seems to provide a palpable solution to the intransigent conflict, but has received criticism. Scholars have diverse views on the introduction and implementation of the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta conflict. Some of them opine that the programme should not be considered as a “silverbullet”, but rather a temporary palliative to ensure peace in the region. Others argue that amnesty is just a process employed to buy peace, to ensure unhindered access to crude oil production in the region, and not a process informed by the need to achieve sustainable peace in the region.
1.1 Historical Background
Virtually all the native races of Africa are represented in Nigeria, hence the great diversity of her people and culture. It was in Nigeria that the Bantu and Semi Bantu, migrating from southern and central Africa, intermingled with the Sudanese. Later, other groups such as Shuwa-Arabs, the Tuaregs, and the Fulani’s, who are concentrated in the far north, entered northern Nigeria in migratory waves across the Sahara Desert. The earliest occupants of settled in the forest belt and in the Niger Delta region. Today there are estimated to be more than 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. While no single group enjoys an absolute numeric majority, four major groups constitute 60% of the population, Hausa-Fulani in the North, Yoruba in the West, and Igbo in the east. Other groups include Kanuri, Binis, Ibibio, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Efik, Nupe, Tiv, and Jukun, Nigeria became an independent nation on Oct. 1, 1960, and a republic in 1963, with a federal structure and three regional governments based on the compass points of North, East, and West. A fourth region, the Midwest, was later added.
The country’s political structure was increased to twelve states in 1967, to nineteen states in 1976, within Abuja as the new federal capital. Between 1987 & 1991, a total of eleven states were created and in 1996, six additional states were added, bringing the administrative structure of the federation to thirty-six states. Abuja, in 1976, was selected by the federal government to become the new seat of government, and in 1992, the first of four stages of this move to Abuja was launched with most of the senior government officials now in Abuja. Besides being the administrative seat of government, Abuja is a beautiful city surrounded by rolling hills, with sample mountaineering, potential. The Gwagwa Hills, Near Suleja, the Chukuku Hills, the Agwai Hills and the famous Zuma rocks are just some of the awe-inspiring manifestation of nature’s beauty in the area. Bida is a lively town, famous for its bandicrafts and colorful market, and is the principal city of the Nupe people. Bida is famous for its glass beads, cloths, silver and brass work, its carved 8-legged stools made from a single piece of wood, and decorative pottery. Bida’s market truly stands out as a traditional showcase of local commerce in Nigeria. Gurara falls is on the Gurara river in Niger State, on the road between Suleja and Minna. Particularly impressive during the rainy season, the falls span 200 meters across with a sheer drop of 30 meters, which creates a dazzling rainbow effect as the water cascades over the top into a cloud of spray below.
The Niger Delta, an area of dense mangrove rainforest in the southern tip of Nigeria has been a centre of violent conflict for some years now. The Nigeria government, like a doctor, has over 50 years tried to solve the problem in the region. During the colonial era the will link commission was set up following the agitation by the minority over what they saw as imbalance in political and economic structure of Nigeria. In 1962 the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) was set up to serve in advisory capacity and provide government with information that would lead to the alleviation of the plight of the area in conjunction with the development Act of 1960’s and the Late 1980’s. Nothing significant was done to solve the developmental problems of the Niger Delta. In 1989, the military government of General Ibrahim Babaginda, in an attempt to assuage the fear of the people of the Niger Delta, set up to the oil minerals production Areas Development Commission (OMPADC) but failed to actualize its objectives due to wastefulness and corruption. During the Obasanjo’s administration, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established in 2000 with the sole mandate of developing the oil rich in Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria. Like (OMPADEC) a magnifying lens will be needed to see its performance.
This has made by federal Government to create a new ministry called the ministry of Niger Delta in 2008, to address the Niger Delta issue, in spite of the presence of these institutions, militant activities, violence and rebellion which portray a looming civil war have been the order of the day in the region. This has resulted in the military approach to ensuring peace in the area, using the joint military force (JTF). The military approach has not been successful in bringing peace to the region. In pursuance of the seven point Agenda, the federal government inaugurated a technical committee headed by Ledum Mittee on September 8, 2008 to distill the various reports, suggestions and recommendations. On the Niger Delta from the Willinks Commission Report of 1958 to the present and give summary of the recommendation. The militant commission was to come up with short medium and long term solutions to the problems in the Niger Delta and make any other recommendation that will help to achieve sustainable development, peace, human and environmental securing in the Niger Delta region. On December 1, 2008, the report was submitted to President Yar’Adua and the assured the nation that the crises in the region would be finally resolved. Following the report of this committee, the federal government is presently pursuing the policy of Amnesty for militants as solution to the Niger Delta Crisis. Since the efforts of the federal Government and multinational corporation to get the Niger Delta out of the shackles of underdevelopment violence and rebellion have been a mirage it becomes pertinent that a closer attention be given to the root causes of the problem.
The Amnesty programme which is one of the recommendations of the mittee committee report is based on the need to achieve sustainable development, peace, human and environmental security in the Niger-Delta region. This sentiment was expressed by the chairman of the Amnesty implementation panel, General Godwin Abbe (RTD) that the goal of the Amnesty programme is to achieve peace, reconciliation, reintegration, healing and sustainable development in the trouble region of Niger-Delta. The Niger-Delta has suffered various forms of hardships and injustee over the years resulting to violence and destruction of lives and properties. Amoda expressed the view that the amnesty approach to security, polities and conflict is a legal approach and asserts that amnesty is a general pardon of offence by government, a deliberate over looking of offences against a government. To pardon is to release the criminally culpable from the just punishment of the law, it is to cancel or not to exact punishment due for the offence committed. This is the nature of the relationship assumed by the government between it and the Niger Delta militants. The militants are pardoned instead of being punished. Based on this conception, the amnesty is conceived out of the need to prevent insurgent who ought to have been punished for engaging in criminal activities from facing the wrath of the law in other to roster peace and progress in Niger Delta region.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
The Niger Delta area of Nigeria had been prone to many conflicts arising from agitation for resource control to self determination. A major problem is that the various agitation and conflicts have criminalized the area such that there exist many factors and groups each claming to represent the interest of the people in the area. While the struggles fought by the various ethnic militants groups formed by the aggrieved citizens and youths of the areas on behalf of the people of the area and to force the government to recognize their needs and demands can be accepted as a legitimate option when conditional and other legitimate avenues have been closed by government’s insensitivity to their plights and demands, the recent form which the struggles have taken delegitimize the struggles.
Sabotage of oil pipelines, assassinations, kidnappings, arson and burning of police states, attacks on government’s building and other installations have criminalized the struggles thereby leading to the government declaring them criminals. However, the civilian government of Yar’Adua in a bid to bring sanity to the area and to show government’s concern, have offered the militants amnesty. Amnesty, therefore had been used as a means of conflict resolution. How far can this go in actually resolving the problem in the Niger Delta area? This is the major issue which this project intend to look at deeply.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this research are as follows.
- To examine the problems militating the developing of Niger Delta region.
- To examine the prospects of peace in the Niger Delta through the Amnesty granted the militants by the federal government.
- To examine the measures taken by the federal Government in meeting the immediate and future needs of the militants that are granted Amnesty.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The importance of the Niger Delta to the nation cannot be overemphasized. In the terms of man, money and materials that the conflict is causing Nigeria may never be rightly quantified. Thus, all have agreed that the conflict had to be resolved urgently so that peace can return to the region. Therefore, when the government announced its policy of granting the militants a reprieve through an amnesty, there was a collection sign of relieve. The significance of this study, is that it proposes to assess and by so doing to also evaluate the effectiveness of the government’s amnesty policy and to profer suggestions that could make the policy workable.
1.5 Methodology of the Study
The methodology used in this research is basically based on secondary data which are derived from such secondary sources as journals, magazines, reports, governments publications and statements, bulletins, critical, and textbook, libraries, and internal extracts.
1.6 Scope of Study
This study is scope to examining the impact of the amnesty programme as both to policy and strategy of conflict resolution and how far it can possibly resolve the fundamental problems faced by the people of the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.
1.7 Conceptual Clarification
Attempt is made in this section to clarify some of the key terms and concepts used in this study research work.
Amnesty is a situation in which a government agrees not to punish or to no longer punish people who have committed a particular crime against the state. A period of time during which people can give something illegal such as weapons to someone in authority or can admit that they have been involved in something illegal without been punished. The Amnesty already presented to repentant militants in the Niger Delta region is a pactage that includes rehabilitation and capacity-building programme to equip the militants with necessary skills for reintegration into various industries.
The Niger Delta is in the south-south geographical zone of Nigeria. This area covers a geographical distance of approximately 85,000 square kilometers are along the coast and stretches in land forming its delta estuary, Niger Delta is the third largest wetland in the world and cover an area of over 70,000 square kilometers comprising sandy coastal ridge barriers and brackish or saline mangrove.
According to Morton conflict exists where incompatible activities occur an action that is incompatible with another action prevent obstruct interferes eliminations or in some way make the later less likely to be effective.
Sustainable peace and development can be seen as the desire to uphold honor and stand all outstanding memorandum of understand (M.O.U) treaties and peaceful treaties resources enter into parties (in the past and present) by various parties to bring about calmness quietness and freedom of all sort. However there cannot be sustainable peace without first resolving, conflict that have arise in both and present hence it is only if and when this is done that there can be sustainable peace and development to this very end, development can be define as multi-dimensional process that normally can change from a less to a more desirable state.
Development as a concept has provoked debates by scholars. Some see it purely economic terms, others view development as encompassing every aspect of peoples lives. Prof Ojo defined development as the manifestation of change in the distinctive character of a phenomenon, resulting in qualitative and quantitative improvement in the nature and condition of the phenomenon.
Summary Conclusion and Recommendation
Amnesty and Conflict Resolution in the Niger Delta
This study demonstrates that the amnesty programme has been able to impact positively on peace in the region. In so doing, the study contradicts the array of scepticisms which narrowly defined the amnesty programme as a measure employed to buy off the militant leaders, and as an approach adopted to enhance government’s unhindered access to oil exploration in the region. The study uses empirical processes to show that the amnesty programme, besides the immediate cessation of hostility in the region, has been able to transform a number of people who previously took up arms against the state. These people now cautiously and peacefully navigate their role within the society. The programme successfully disarmed 30,000 former militants, out of which over 16,000 militants have been made to go through several skill acquisitions, ranging from formal and informal education and vocational skills training. The quality of training given 264 to the ex-militants and the youth in the region, and the process of reintegration when compared to other countries in Africa where similar programmes were deployed such as South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone and others, demonstrably prepared the people for the job market at home and abroad. From observation of the programme, it is deemed unlikely that products of high quality training processes will want to revert to violent lives. It is argued by the study that when an individual is given amnesty, and is not condemned to the guilt of the past, and also, when the state takes it upon itself to add value to the person through capacity building that the person in effect becomes a new born. He/she wants to sustain the present status, because he or she has become a transformed person. This, according to the study, is what it means to be transformed. Here, the study is informed by an inference from Galtung (2000) that real transformation takes place when an individual is now capable of taking vital decisions peacefully, able to fend for him/herself and live a wholesome life after going through a process of redemption that the amnesty programme provided. Through the kind of skills they have acquired, the ex-militants and other youth in the region are better positioned to seek their means of sustenance in a peaceful manner. Whilst unemployment is being taken care of, the former militants, the youth, and the stake holders in the region will now continue to agitate for the development of the region through peaceful means. As some of the ex-militants confided in the researcher, the kind of training they received and the exposure given to them by the programme, have inculcated in them the method of peacefully demanding their rights from the state, and peacefully conducting their affairs with fellow human beings. (Personal Communication, Nov. 2014). 265 Moreover, apart from the behavioural changes, capacity building, and employment openings the programme’s achievement in providing peace and security for the people of the region is another strength of the programme. The improvement in infrastructural development in the region (albeit slow paced) and the increase in oil production capacity is due to the terrain of peace, given that little or nothing can be achieved in these areas if peace does not exist in the region.
While findings in the study show that the programme has some noticeable achievements, the study also identified some of the challenges that are bedeviling the programme. They include corruption, problems of inclusion and placement, politicisation of the programme, post-training opportunities, a group mentality/ entitlement syndrome, and the problem of unmet expectations. Since corruption is one of the problems hindering Nigeria’s development, the amnesty programme cannot be treated as an incorruptible exception to the rule. Corruption problematics include, for instance, selection for training. Here, the study identified some anomalies in the selection, where due to favouritism, some real militants are left out and non-combatant relatives are brought in. In the area of contracting the training to consultants, some people who are not qualified were given contracts due to bribes and other dubious practices (Personal communication with an evaluator, Nov. 2014). Thus, the level of successes recorded is said (by authoritative respondents and reputable sources quoted in the study) not to be commensurate with the money budgeted for the programme. Without doubt, this adversely affected the number of people that would otherwise have benefitted from the programme. 266 Another challenge identified in this study is that of inclusion and placement, given that a number of former militants and youths who initially were sceptical about the programme now want to be included, having seen the successes and benefits provided by the type of training given to the beneficiaries. This, according to findings in the study, has caused some of the aggrieved militants and youths to sue the amnesty office, claiming that they were excluded from the programme. This partly explains the reason for the recent gradual increase in oil bunkering and occasional skirmishes in the region. It was also discovered during the course of the study that job placement is another major challenge to the programme. This is because many of the ex-militants who have graduated from various skills and educational programme are still struggling to find meaningful employment. In addition, the research further showed that the programme is faced with several criticisms as many people expected that the amnesty office can do better than they are in fact doing at the moment.
This increase in expectations is understandable against the backdrop that previous intervention efforts in the region were not this effective. When most people in the region are seeing the quality of training and opportunity that the amnesty programme afforded the participants, a lot of people want to be part of it and to benefit from the programme. Careful observation of the programme shows that the initial purpose for introducing the programme was mainly to address the immediate challenge of militancy; however, realities on the ground made the sole admittance of militants into the scheme impracticable, hence, the reason why some other youths and marginalized groups in the region were subsequently included.This research seeks to address the amnesty programme in Nigeria within the context of exploring the impact and challenges in post conflict Niger Delta region. As it stands, the post amnesty needs of the Niger Delta people have not been met and some of the promises made by the Federal Government during the consultation preceding the amnesty have not been redeemed. Therefore, the resolution to the crisis in the region goes beyond amnesty programme to the substantive solution, the solution is for the FG to create employment opportunities for the youths and develop the region.
From the facts exposed in the course of this study, it becomes necessary to make the following recommendations:
The first and foremost recommendation that would assuage the problem in the Niger Delta region is the unrestricted implementation of the recommendations of the Niger Delta Technical Committee (NDTC) that was constituted by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The NDTC in its recommendation upheld the twenty-five (25) percent derivation formula for oil producing states. The committee also proposed three sets of reform tackling issues of governance and the rule of law, socio-economic development and human development. These they proposed would ensure the achievement of sustainable peace.
Secondly, there should be a major trilateral conflict resolution and peace building conference for key stakeholders in the Niger Delta conflict namely: the oil bearing communities, the state (federal, state and local government levels) and the oil industry. The conference should be anchored by a reputable international non-governmental organization such as the Amnesty International and should have binding resolutions on the three parties. 84 The method for nominating delegates to the conference must be democratized to include the people mostly affected by the oil exploration activities in the Niger Delta. Likewise, the representatives of the major militant outfits in the Niger Delta should be involved. These stakeholders must contribute in the choice of venue and issues to be discussed. Thus, it would not be restricted to the decades of one party; as was the case of the amnesty and demobilization programme. In addition, these stakeholders need to articulate their demands so as to make a positive suggestion that would reduce the consciousness of relative deprivation among the people of the Niger Delta.
Thirdly, the lax environmental regulations guiding oil exploration in Nigeria should be properly re-enacted to ensure strict compliance to safety measures by the Trans-national Oil Corporations (TNOCs) operating in the Niger Delta. Moreover, it should make provisions for proper compensation to affected areas, in the case of oil spillages or other negative consequences of the oil exploration activities in the area. Such compensation should be targeted at the affected areas and people and not towards the pockets of politicians, government officials or irresponsible community or youth leaders.
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