Post Amnesty Era: What Happens When This Amnesty Expires? Part 1
The current situation in the Niger Delta typifies of a ravaged and mismanaged war economy due to failure of the Nigerian government to fully implement the Presidential Amnesty DDR programme and failure of the agency to reconstruct and transform the Niger Delta economy into a functioning market that will enable the people earn a decent living.
After conflict like that of the Niger Delta insurgency, Nigeria ought to embark in multi-pronged transition to peace. Violence must give way to public security in the area; political exclusion, lawlessness, kidnapping, ethnic conflict etc.; must give way to the rule of law, must give way to development and participatory government if peace must be returned.
According to Jan Pronk, Former Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation (UNHCR 1996) “Peace and development are intrinsically linked: one cannot be achieved if the other fails”.
Today there is ‘relative’ peace just to allow the Oil Companies drill the Oil in the Niger Delta, but can we say it for development in the area? Whose fault? The Niger Delta may boil again due to failure to properly implement the “Reintegration (R) phase” of the DDR programme, failures from the leaders of the region and neglect of the region by the Nigerian Government.
Mind you, National reconciliation efforts include the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) of former combatants and the environmentally impacted Communities affected by the insurgency as well as the rehabilitation of basic services and infrastructures in the area. For peace to fully return in the Niger Delta, the Government need to carry out these efforts continuously and implacably from the early emergency phase to the end of the post-amnesty phase.
Today, what can we say about the reintegration of the combatants/ex-agitators, the environmentally impacted Communities, the state of infrastructure in the area, the health and wealth of the people in the Niger Delta region? In all this, where is the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme headed? Has the programme lived up to expectation? I shall be detailing and capturing all these in the coming chapters.
It is often said that a fool at forty is a fool forever. Can it be said now that the Niger Delta has learnt from her past? In local parlance, you’ll hear sayings like; “Dem no dey learn left-hand for old age”. Meaning, it would be difficult for an adult who eats with his right hand from Childhood to start using his left hand to eat. Just like it would be catastrophic to stop someone’s bait, I mean the misplaced monthly sixty-five-thousand naira stipend without engaging him positively. This is alien for any adult, difficult and even impossible to some. Grasses/flowers are pruned down to fit-in, therefore should the owner be complacent and allow it overgrow; it may grow and deface the building or attract some dangerous reptiles. The much needed needful is lacking in the Niger Delta, the Presidential Amnesty programme vis-à-vis, other government intervention programmes in the region need a boost or rejigging. No economy has been created in the region, everything is going from bad to worse, and the Youths are not engaged. Crisis may come again, this time; worse if the needful is not done urgently.
Before the first OIL exploration began in Nigeria, particularly in Oloibiri of Bayelsa State. We hear several attempts to explore OIL had begun in other parts of the federation but all met a gigantic brick wall due to the absence OIL in those regions but in the Niger Delta region. Due to what has happened in the Niger Delta in the past fifty-five years or so, one can comfortably aver that; it could be that the then leaders in the Niger Delta region were either unaware of the treasure lying underneath them or that they were very few to stage a protest for the ‘Total control’ of their resources as the Yorubas and Hausas did with their Groundnut and Cocoa. We hear (and it is on records) that during the short stint when Nigeria depended on the ‘Groundnut and Cocoa’, there was total control of these resources by the regions that produced them. During this period no region of the Country batted an eyelid, no one protested or even sought to claim or shout-down the regions that gives the ‘agreed percentage’ to the central government. Nigeria was calm and everything worked during that time.
The likes of great Awolowo and the Saddaunna in the North and others were at the helms of affairs that used their resources for the betterment and advancement of their people. Again I reiterate, no one sought to stop them, no one argued what they get was too much or less. Nigeria did not boil, troops were never sent to razed down innocent Communities. Unlike in the Niger Delta when a civilian President after drilling the OIL in the Niger Delta ordered that a Community be wiped out. Men, Women and Children were killed and properties were burnt down. Instead of apologising, this same President got all the applauses from his people for a job well done. This is the sort of Country we have been living in. This is one of the things playing out today in the Country.
Whilst the Hausas were known for their Groundnut, the Yorubas were associated with the Cocoa and the Igbos are known for farming and doing other businesses. The Niger Deltans are known for fishing and farming. Our forefathers trained us in the Niger Delta with proceeds from their fishing and the businesses they do with the Portuguese. Before Oil exploration began in the Niger Delta region, there were no Oil-spills, no sea pirates, no contamination of the rivers, and no intimidation of law-abiding Niger Delta citizens on our seas by the Nigerian Government/the military. Our mothers were able to fish too. Apart from large-scale fishing, seafood’s like; periwinkle, oyster, lobster, prawns, and others were booming in the area. Men and Women traded on these and trained their Children, built houses and earned a living peacefully until the monstrous Oil Companies and the Federal Government invaded the area to cause despoliations and exploit the people with the Oil exploration mantra.
ORIGIN OF THE NIGER DELTA MILITANCY
Although the Niger Delta insurgency later turned out to be; a genuine expression of the lack of jobs, exclusion of Niger Deltans by the Nigerian Government and the Oil Companies, lack of development in the region, neglect of the health, wealth and safety of the people. Contamination of the entire region (land and seas) by the Oil Companies, forceful eviction of the people from their homes and Communities due to Oil exploration without compensation, subtle balkanisation/annexation etc. Otherwise, some greedy politicians in the region who wanted re-election after the 1999 general elections originally contemplated the idea, which later progressed to the militancy phase.
Some Niger Delta Governors, Senators and other politicians with the help of the then ‘careless’ federal government took advantage of the joblessness and gullibility of the Youths in the area by arming them to the teeth just for their selfish re-election bid. They procured the guns for the boys whom they used to intimidate and killed their political enemies. After they all got re-elected for a second term, it was difficult for them to retrieve these guns back from the boys. Some of them continued using these boys as their bodyguards/securities or as vigilantes etc. These boys became so powerful in the region coupled with the Oil Companies refusing to employ the Niger Deltans with skills and experience. Rather, workers are shipped from either Lagos or Abuja to take up jobs originally meant for the Niger Deltans.
To make matters worse, the Nigerian Government blatantly refused to develop the region. Instead they sent troops to forcefully eject most host Communities for the Oil Companies to drill without making any alternate arrangement to settle the people. The Nigerian Government intentionally ignored and excluded the peoples of the Niger Delta even politically. Water borne diseases and other life-threatening environmental hazards became predominant in the region; lives were lost as a result contamination of the land by the operations of the Oil Companies, which were below the acceptable standard of international best practices. The land, air and our seas were all contaminated by the substandard activities of the Oil Companies. All these further triggered the boys to officially wage war on the Oil Companies and the Oil platforms. The unscrupulous amongst them took to kidnapping of the expatriates; some resorted to blowing up the Oil installations while others stayed the course of wanting to control their resources.
…To be continued
Maobuye Nangi Obu
Socio-economic political commentator, perception management, blogger, writer, interventionist and content creation amongst others.