Amnesty, Militancy and the Nigerian Economy

By Onukwube Uwanu

The not too long offer of amnesty by the President Umar Musa Yar' Adua to militants to me is an action in the right direction taken by the present administration to restore peace,and stability in the oil rich region of Niger Delta. What matters first at this point is the political will and sincerity the President attaches to the terms and conditions of the amnesty which will soon be made public.

Secondly, the question of whether the various militant leaders and their groups are prepared to accept the terms and conditions and subsequently turn in their arms and ammunition constitute another issue at stake. It is relevant to not that most of these militant leaders and their members such as Tom Polo, Ateke, Africa Owei, Commander Jackson, alias Young Shall Grow, Victor Ben, alias Boyloaf, Joshua Mckiver etc as published by the Sun Newspapers, on page 4, July 20, 2008 are not unaware of the tragedy that befell Alh. Asari Dokubo, the then leader of Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer force (NDPVF) during Obasanjo's regime and his (Obasanjo's) insensitivity to plight of the Niger Deltans.

The harrowing mental trauma suffered by Asari Dokubo while in solitary confinement is ever green in the minds of many a militant leader who have the tragedies of history at their finger tips. It may be on this sacrosanct fact that many militant leaders except Ateke have distanced themselves from the offer knowing full well that the FG may turnaround and press charges of treason, felony and economic sabourtage against them.

It is one thing to offer amnesty and another for all those concerned (militants) to accept it. There is no gain saying the fact that some of these militants have touched and made millions of naira through the cause they represent and may find it difficult to yield to the federal government offer. The question is, will conditions and terms of agreement to be made to the militants be proportionate to what they use to get while in the creeks?

The federal government in its bid to tame the incessant Niger Delta crisis have created intervention bodies like OPADEC, NDDC, Niger Delta Ministry and even set up Niger Delta Technical Committee, mandated to draw up recommendations which will fast track peace and development in region, up till now many Niger Deltans are appalled by the lackluster attitude and political will to adopt and implement the recommendations in the report to the letter. With the creation of these bodies, has militancy in the region stopped? Has massive infrastructural development been recorded?

Picture a situation where some militant leaders draw up their terms and conditions and are rejected by the FG. The means that the engine house of the nation economy is not yet out of the woods and this portend a great challenge to the economy of our dear nation Nigeria.

The current administration no doubt understands the key role Niger Delta region plays to the nation. Indeed the resources from the region are being used to develop other areas like Lagos and Abuja as well as the rest of the states to the detriment of the goose that laid the golden egg. The huge fund the nation is losing as a result of the Niger Delta crisis must have informed the President's resolve to grant amnesty to the militants which is quite commendable. One Newman Ebiegberi wrote on page 7, Sunday SUN, July20, 2008 with the caption, Niger Delta Challenge and rest of us, “The country loses $2.52 billion monthly as a result of the agitation of the Niger Delta freedom seekers.

As a way forward, the FG should not only grant amnesty to the militants who are still at large but also extend same to the likes of Henry Okah, Uwazuruike etc who are still in solitary confinement. Apart from this, it must not renege on its words just as in the case of Asari Dokubo who surrendered his arms and thereafter arrested and detained by the then administration of Obasanjo. The FG should also reach out to respected, well- informed and seasoned spoke persons from the region, who are respected by the militants and endorsed by the people to woo and encourage the militants on the need to lay down their arms.

The various leaders of the militants and their members should embrace the offer whole heartedly and surrender their arms for peace, progress and infrastructural development to take the center stage. In addition, the FG should demilitarize the region and move in world class construction companies like Strag Bag, Julius Berger amongst others to start off infrastructural development and watch what reaction this action will produce. Most importantly, the FG should as a matter of urgency adopt and implement the recommendations in the Niger Delta Technical Committee report.

If the above could be reached, achieved and put in place, the constant Niger Delta crisis which has plagued the economy and front page of most of our local, regional and national dailies will become history.

Onukwube Uwanu is social critic, writes in from Elelenwo Port Harcourt