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Will Niger Delta amnesty work?

June 26, 2009

Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has laid out the details of a 60-day amnesty programme for militants and criminals in the Niger Delta. Under the deal, all gunmen who lay down their weapons during a 60-day period ending in October will be immune from prosecution. The offer extends to those currently being prosecuted for militant-related activities, meaning Henry Okah – the suspected leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) – could also walk free if he agrees to renounce the notion of armed struggle.

Several factional leaders – including Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, Soboma George and Boyloaf – have said they accept the idea of amnesty in principle but want talks with President Yar’Adua to hammer out the details.

Advocates say such an amnesty would meet one of the key demands of militant groups and is the only way to bring an end to instability which costs Nigeria billions of dollars in lost oil revenues each year, prevents the development of the very communities the militants claim to represent and causes world energy prices to rise further, which ultimately falls back on the Nigerian consumer.

Critics say amnesty simply provides a get-out-of-jail free card to those responsible for kidnappings, acts of sabotage and banditry and that the promises to re-educate and reintegrate them into civilian society would require years of investment. The government has said it will not offer a “buy back” programme – money for surrendered weapons – but does the scheme reward those who have taken up the armed struggle while leaving peaceful protesters with nothing?

It is not the first time amnesty has been offered to armed gangs in the Niger Delta. Yar’Adua’s predecessor Olusegun Obasanjo struck such an agreement in 2004 with militants including Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, whose Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force turned over thousands of weapons in return for amnesty. But the deal later broke down when some factions accused others of profiting from disarmament at their expense, and Asari was later arrested and charged with treason.

Is Yar’Adua’s amnesty offer a serious attempt at resolving the crisis in the Niger Delta or will it suffer the same fate as the previous amnesty deal? Is it simply an attempt to win political currency for the ruling party in the Niger Delta ahead of elections in 2011? What happens after the amnesty? What hope is there that the resources and political will are there to ensure the longer-term development of the Niger Delta and prevent a resurgence of the cycle of the frustration, unemployment and violence that has characterised the region for so long?


I feel the Nigerian govt should start doing the right thing. If they keep the people happy by giving them the same opportunity the rich have such as educational and occupational opportunities- just as it is done in the United states, Nigeria would be a haven to leave in.

Posted by kele | Report as abusive

the amnesty offer of sixty days in the Niger delta wont work when the local people are impoverished and wasted away in abject poverty when Nigeria is importing petroleum products as if they do not have oil in their back yard?Not even a samll refinery in the Africas most popular nation?What a shame to Africa and her leaders. Blame this on the west? God forbid.Kampala Uganda.

Posted by Aburek Eric | Report as abusive

Why is oil dividing Nigeria into two? to the best of my knowledge that is corruption. furthermore, iam advising the Niger Delta host communities to stop tantalizing Nigerians with oil.In another vein,for Nigerians to have a segregated ministry called Niger Delta is corruption.


For a Nation to develop and become vast in knowledge, Economy, Political Stability, codial relationsh and in host of others, there most be peace and unity.oil as a natural gift from God does not require any harrassment among the indegenes of a country.Your Excellency sir,president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,thanks so much for intervening in the Niger Delta crisis, may you contiue to look into this matter untill the matter is desolved for peace of the country.


It would work as long as the president takes charge of the negotiations but if left to the thieves and vagabonds around the presidency it would be another get rich scheme.

Posted by Nduka Tolefe | Report as abusive

The only way to stop the militants will be clamping down on corruption, starting with goverment officials.

Posted by E. Klotia-Clottey | Report as abusive

The militant should first hold their leaders responsible before getting a hold FG…how well have they utilize the oil revenue % giving to NDDC and their state governments

Posted by Olusegun | Report as abusive

as a nigerian i would say that the niger delta area should be a true example of what nigeria is all about is a pity that we have a government that dosent think about its people. nigeria as a nation is like nigeria delta at the moment without the violence, our government should use its oil revenues and tax from the oil producers to develop the nation,they should also focus on tackling the main problem which is the the obsession of self worth and having a government that is not labeled as one of the most corrupt if not the most corrupt in the world.

Posted by onyemaechi | Report as abusive

Ah! To read such enlightened commentary is a wonderful way to start the morning. History has few examples, however egalitarian societies are generally peaceful. Allow people to prosper and strife will be eliminated. It is unfortunate that humanity is plagued with some who think they are better than everyone else, ascending to power and taking what they want by force or corrupt legal authority.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

I dont think the main solution to the problems of the region is amnesty,although it has its own use.The biggest problem of the region and the nation at large is unemployment.If we use 90 billion naira to rehabilitate millitants who through there millitancy activities have ammased so much wealth how much then do we use to rehabilitate those who are psycologically affected by the whole violence.U know, the non-gun carrying members of the niger delta region.

Posted by emmanuel | Report as abusive

how can you say that MEND “prevents the development of the very communities the militants claim to represent”? i don’t necessarily condone what they do, but i would charge that shell and the other oil companies are most guilty of impoverishing communities in the delta through persistent human rights abuses – primarily flaring, as well as the government which neglects the suffering of its people.

Posted by joshua | Report as abusive

My brothers, sisters, Fathers and Mothers, should be given their rights to live comfortable in their poor areas. Before the government extract any minerals from the areas, infrasture should be met, so that the people should cooperate. You can just come there and take away their food without leaving anything for them. No good roads, Hospitals, school, clean water, electricity etc. The government means, the President and others are sleeping find in airconditionings, clean water drove on good roads, good medical care, children in better schools both at home and abroad. Why can you think of the citizens like you in the same country should be given equal basic facilities. I disagree with the President to crush them by October. You will disstabilize the whole situation. The whole country cannot use electricity for 12 hours and the country export billions of oil and trillion dollars, what did the presendent do with the money he earn from oil. Pleas ask the President to give account of his monthly expenditures and income so that the public can weigh.


I doubt it very strongly whether the so called amnesty has any chance of stopping the unrest in the Niger Delta region.My view is that the Federal Government has to be federal in all regards and allow revenues to be proportionately allocated to the regions where those revenues are derived. Short of this measure, any effort towards a stable Nigeria will have little chances of success.However, the poverty in the Niger Delta is not entirely down to the allocation of resources but corruption at the highest level of the government and in the regions. Tackling corruption in all its guises will go a long way to stabilize Nigeria as a whole.

Posted by Innocent Okorji | Report as abusive

amnesty has currently given some nigeria immunity. no body in his/her right senses will say amnesty has not worked.any effort towards a stable nigeria will work

Posted by oludunsin ifetola | Report as abusive

Only God will deliver us in this country.The battle has shifted from Regional interest to personal interest. Amnesty may fail in the Niger Delta Region because Govt., the chiefs, freedom fighters, militants and other Nigerians have their selfish interests in the region to acquire oil wells. Asari Dokubo no longer fight nor live in the cricks but now in ABUJA since the Fed. Govt. settled him with oil wells and billions of naira. I think the govt. should tackle development and unemployment and stop fooling Nigerians. MAY GOD BLESS NIGERIANS.

Posted by Godsown | Report as abusive

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