The Niger Delta Crisis – An Evaluation Of The Management Of The Amnesty Option
Oil producing communities of Nigeria known as the Niger Delta region has been a region characterized with fierce violent conflict for more than a decade. The conflict is between successive Nigerian governments and their collaborating oil companies, and militant groups from the region. The core issue in the conflict are the social –economic deprivations and denial of resource control which were occasioned by corporate malfeasance and indifference of successive Nigerian Government to the plight , demands and aspirations of the people of the region. The Nigerian government who first aggravated the violent conflict in the region through the use of violent repression as an anti-protest measure however proposed an amnesty policy in June 2009 as a non-violent measure to address the crisis in the region. The policy aimed solely at disarming, rehabilitating and reintegrating the militants into the Nigerian society. The implementation of the policy brought a relative peace to the long troubled region for the first time, with the seeming compliance of the militants. This study however seeks to evaluate the management of the amnesty policy. In the process of carrying out this study, 220 questionnaires were distributed and 200 were retuned as valid.
The study revealed that a large number of respondent lauded the for formation and implementation of the amnesty policy but faulted the implementation and management process. Thus, the study argued that more attention should be focused on the management process to enable it achieve its desired goals and objectives of rehabilitating and reintegrating the ex-agitators.
The study also suggested that the Federal government should provide the needed facilities and the basic essentials of life for the people of the region whose lack is the root cause of the crisis.
Niger Delta region is 70,000 square kilometers region located at the southern part of Nigeria. Its inhabitants live in the Nigeria’s present day River, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, AkwaIbom, Abia, Imo, Edo and Ondo States. These states are made up of 40 different ethnic communities with 250 languages and dialects with the Ijaws being the most populous .These people are held together and identified as Niger Delta people, a name commonly used to identify oil producing ethnic communities in Nigeria.1
This region contains a large quantity of oil which makes Nigeria the highest oil producing country in Africa and 6th in the world. In 2007 for example, the oil in this region was estimated at 36.2 billion barrel and it is expected to grow to 40 billion barrels by 2011. The region does not only contain large deposit of oil but its oil is referred to as ‘sweet crude’ because of its high quality. It has low hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide which makes it yield high quality distillates, liquefied petroleum gas, gasoline and naphtha. 2
Consequently, oil companies scramble for oil from the region because of the high profit that it yields. For example in the fall of 2007, the landed cost of Nigeria sweet crude in the US – the consumer of almost half of Nigeria oil – was $80 per barrel. And it is estimated that Nigeria makes profit of over $1.5 billion in oil revenues each and every week, supplying a larger share to US crude import than Saudi Arabia. And as of 2007, over 87 percent of Nigerian Government revenues, 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings, 96 percent of export revenues, and almost half of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is accounted for by just this one commodity –Oil- from Niger Delta region.3
In this picturesque basin lives a mixture of ethnic nationalities which include among others, the Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Ikwere, Andoni,Efik, Ibibio, Kalabari, Okrika,Anioma together with sections of the Yoruba and Igbo. Among these, the Ijaw seems by far the largest. In this region also lies Nigeria’s over 35 billion barrels of proven oil reserves2, besides an even larger deposit of natural gas. The region also accounts for over 80% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product and represents the economic jugular of the country.
Here in this intricate network of creeks and braided streams also lie the operational bases of a plethora of differing goals and objectives ranging from nationalism and freedom fighting to criminality and terrorism. This region is therefore Nigeria’s hot bed of ethnic violence, terrorism and insurgency. But in the midst of unchecked violence and a revolving criminality, together with the resultant widespread anxiety to douse tension and appease the militants, the real issues seem to have been forgotten, and prescribed solutions appears immature 3. The conflict is between the Niger Delta Militants and the Nigerian Government and their collaborating multinational oil companies. The core issues in the conflict are socio- economic deprivations and denial of resource control.
The people of the region suffer untold ecological destruction which has lasted for more than five decades and it is as a result of oil operations which destroy lands, forests, and farms and contaminate the seas which are the means of livelihood of the oil producing communities who are mostly famers, hunters and fishers. An ecological destruction that World Life Fund observed and reported in its 2006 annual report that “Niger Delta is one of the most polluted places on the face of the earth. The attendant impact of the destruction became poverty, diseases, illiteracy, and unemployment and in most cases lack of shelter as search for oil literally displaces many people from their homes. Thus the oil business pauperizes the people of the region to the extent that the Niger Delta region is the poorest region in Nigeria today.”4
As a result of this, the Niger Delta people whose region was once flourishing agricultural and trade centre of west Africa before the discovery of oil felt dissatisfied with the statusquo and expressed their feelings through various non-violent social movements at various times demanding for improved socio-economic condition and resource control. However, the approach of the Nigerian Government to the plight, legitimate demands and aspirations of the Niger Delta people was always that of indifference and violent repression. Hence the continued degradation of the Niger Delta region by the Multinational Oil Companies and constant human right violations in forms of unremitting brutality, arrests, extra- judicial killing, incarceration and rape by successive Nigerian Governments. Consequently, the people of the region felt that the successive Nigerian Governments and their collaborating Multinational Oil Companies have systematically and effectively marginalized and deprived them of their socio-economic and political rights to an extent that they have little or no control over their land, resources and lives. The implication became that non-violent social agitation.
This problem made the militia groups blew up some oil flow stations, abducted some foreign workers and disrupted oil business in the area. The Niger Delta has been complaining about environmental damage from oil exploration and rising unemployment and poverty in the region, but the successive governments and the multi-national oil corporations have been insensitive to the plight of the people. The people have endured a long history of economic and social injustice and they are now “tired of being at the bottom.”1 This article focuses on the impacts of the Niger Delta crisis on the polity. The Niger Delta crisis is a serious matter that requires serious policy and committed and courageous leadership to resolve. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has threatened some rocket attacks.5
As mentioned earlier, the people of Niger Delta have been suffering from environmental degradation and pollution through oil spillage and gas flaring. There are many other “Tales of Agony” strewn the landscape that this writer does not deem necessary to repeat in this short article. The Commissions established by the government (Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) in 1992, replaced by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000) have not made any noticeable socioeconomic impacts in the region.6 The present civilian administration must keep its promises because the people are tired of failed promises. It should be serious with the crisis and work to diminish the people’s pain, suffering, and anger and bring the society to the Village Square of unity.
The crisis in the Niger Delta is not complex by itself. But the approach to resolving it makes it complex and dangerous. The people are not asking for anything out of the ordinary. The region that is home to Nigeria’s oil wealth remains the most impoverished community in the nation. What a paradox! Reports note that they lack basic infrastructure -good network of roads, health care facilities, good schools and portable water. The recent sad images of the poor quality of life in the creeks shown to the world on CNN (and in the newspapers) show that the oil wealth is not being used to develop the area. The successive governments have collected billions of dollars from the land over the decades, but little (if any) has been invested in the area to improve the people’s living conditions. Is there anything wrong in investing some money that are realized from the oil extracted from the region to improve the people’s living conditions?
The main causes of Niger Delta crisis include greed and selfishness, deprivation and poverty7 , and “social injustice.” The simple meaning of social justice, according to experts, is that the same contribution equals the same benefit. A person’s “benefit” equals his or her “contribution.”8 And no community should be given more when it contributes less or be given less when it contributes more! That is the crux of the matter in the Niger Delta crisis! The Niger Delta is contributing a lot to the economic well-being of Nigeria and it is getting nothing, but destruction, in return. Without social justice there will be no peace in the Niger Delta and socioeconomic development will continue to elude the region. Social justice, as experts say, is an important ingredient for “socioeconomic development.” It creates “create a healthy, harmonious, reliable social psychological atmosphere that will stimulate economic development.” And because of social injustice the entire nation is slowly becoming politically and economically very unstable.
The Niger delta crisis is not only a national problem; it is a global problem that deserves serious attention. The world has long seen Nigeria as a non-stable economy and a sinkhole that could swallow their investment. Crude oil is an important material input in the production of goods and services. Any disturbances in the flow of oil in Nigeria (as the mid-1970s Middle East oil crisis) will impact negatively on the world economy. As we know most of the world’s oil supply originates in the oil fields of the Niger Delta (and the Middle East). The political leaders should work harder for peace in the Niger Delta, because “Without Peace, Growth is Impossible.” As Jeffrey Sachs notes, “peace is not easily [achieved or] guaranteed.”9
The crisis has created a weird booming business of hostage taking for money and storming of banks. It was recently reported that a gang of militants stormed some financial institutions in Port Harcourt (and its environs) and made away with millions of Naira.10The world was told that the freed hostages were without strings attached. But everybody knows that the federal government was lying; it dished out some millions before they were released. It is likely that the present case will end similarly. Also, the crisis could become an avenue for the corrupt government officials to loot, by hiding behind excuse of ‘paying for hostage release’ to steal from the public. As a commentator beautifully notes, “Hostage taking has become a lucrative business providing a means of spending money without proper accountability.”11Any further delay in resolving this problem will exacerbate the ongoing hostage-taking syndrome and disruption of oil exploration and distribution. And the situation could spiral out of control into a “civil war.” Economic and social factors have been noted as the underlying conditions for civil wars in societies.12The ethnic militias fighting for ethnic self-determination could be perching on the fence waiting for such a thing to happen!
With the relative peace enjoyed by the oil region since the announcement and implementation of the “Federal Government Amnesty programme” policy, many Nigerians as well as international agencies applaud the policy as a success . Even though the policy seems to be a success, no attempt has however been made to interrogate the feasibility of the policy engendering genuine and lasting peace in the region since the policy has no potentiality of attending to the root cause of the crisis but instead focused only on disarming, rehabilitating and reintegrating the militants into the Nigerian state.
Since the Niger Delta crisis is a case of social injustice which has its root in human rights violations, the study tends to findout whether the amnesty policy of the Nigerian Government will bring about a genuine and lasting peace despite the seeming success. The study also tend to look at the issue of human rights whose absence caused the crisis and whose provision has always been the demands and aspirations of the people, as it will significantly reduce and perhaps eradicate the crisis thereby engendering a genuine and lasting peace in the region. Consequently, the study will identify human right issues in a more concrete, practical and persuasive way since the notion can be general and most times illusive.
In view of the aim, the study is posing these research questions.
The study asks.
- What are the factors that prompted Nigerian Government to propose the Amnesty policy as a way of resolving Niger Delta Crisis?
- Has the introduction of the Amnesty optionhelped in solving the Niger- Delta crisis?
- What is the level of success in the implementation of the Amnesty program by the government since inception?
Significance of Study
The Amnesty programme was conceived during the era of late President late Umatu Musa Yar’Adua. However, as a step towards resolving the protracted insecurity in the Niger Delta , Amnesty was offered to the militants in 2009 while 20,193 militants accepted the offer and started the disarmament process which took place on October 4th , 2009.
This study seeks to determine and find out whether the purpose for which the Amnesty programme was conceived is achieving its goals . Therefore, the significance of the study is to highlight whether after about three years the Amnesty policy kicked off , what is the state of affairs in the Niger Delta region , the journey so far and the current status of the Amnesty programme.
Definition of Terms
In this project, the key words used are ; Amnesty policy , Niger-Delta , Nigerian Government , Nigerian State , social movement , violent repression.
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