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Conflict Mining/Resources, Niger Delta, Nigeria

Niger Delta Amnesty – 9 months on

It is impossible to disentangle the actions of Shell and other multinational oil companies operating in the Niger Delta from the actions of the Nigerian Federal and State governments. The two are in inextricably tied together in an alliance which has led to the militarisation of commerce and the exclusion of indigenous communities at the source of the wealth. In retrospect the emergence of a militant movement in Niger Delta was inevitable both to acquire a stake in the wealth and to demand for some degree of autonomy and control of the land and water. The stakes on offer are immense — for the government, oil companies, Nigerian security forces and the militants. Something drastic had to be done. With the escalating militancy in the region which had seriously disrupted Nigeria’s oil production, the Government offered to give the militants amnesty in return for laying down their arms. Rather than tackle the cause of the militancy and criminal activities such as the huge environmental damage and lack of development by the multinational oil corporations and Federal and State governments, the government simply made a financial deal — Amnesty, with a group of militants in exchange for their silence and laying down of arms.

The amnesty has been a sham from the beginning. The cost of doing so could well have been put towards building health centers, schools and other infrastructure for the communities and begin to erode the reasons behind the militancy in the first place. The deal included a $500 a month payment to an undisclosed number of militants that could run into thousands of dollars a month. The fact that no one seems to know the exact number of recipients or even the number of weapons handed in, is of great concern. The promised rehabilitation through training and job creation for the militants which was supposed to immediately address the underdevelopment in the region has not taken place, at least not in any meaningful sense.

Only the first commitment has been met and even then there are discrepancies and disputes on the numbers. For example one report recently claimed that some 400 militants belonging to Felix Oduo’s group had received nothing. A recent meeting to review the Amnesty deal, summed up a series of failures. Firstly the review panel including human rights activists said the numbers of militants were exaggerated; secondly that over 80% of the funds allocated where going to the contractors with only 20% to the ex-militants’ thirdly the training was sub-standard. Putting these together raises serious questions of mismanagement or worse corruption. Most importantly and one critical factor that has been left out of the whole Amnesty debate are the voices of women. Although the negotiator between the militants and the Federal government was a woman, Ms AnnKio Briggs — women were not consulted in the negotiations. Nor where women consulted or included in the Amnesty agreement and post Amnesty planning.

The panel which also had Nollywood star and actress, Hilda Dokubo as Secretary claimed that the plan has not taken into consideration those who have been directly affected and traumatised by the crisis; especially those who have lost their sources of livelihood and major breadwinners. These includes: mothers of dead militants, wives, children and siblings/

In May 2009, the Kingdom of Gbaramatu in South West Warri was bombed by Federal helicopter gunships and thousands of women were injured and fled the area running with their children through the creeks and mangrove swamps. The number of dead is still not known as the Federal government refused to allow any humanitarian agencies into the area to assess the damage. Many of the women fled to the state capital at Warri and were subsequently housed in an IDP camp with their children. It was only because of activists from the Gender Action Project that the camp was eventually organised and training provided for the women and children. This speaks to two of the issues of concern with the Nigerian government. One the bombing and invasion by troops of rural areas where the majority population are women, elderly and children. Secondly, the failure of the government to provide medical and general care as well as compensation to those who are injured, displaced or land is destroyed by the military actions. Another factor which directly affects women is the targeting of young men between the ages of 15 and 30 by the military [JTF] and summary executions. Many of the women in the Warri IDP camp had not seen their husbands, sons, brothers who had remained in hiding or had been captured by the JTF. Youths are still missing 11 years after the Odi and Kaiama invasions in Bayelsa State.

The assessment of the Amnesty agreement 6 months its implementation is one of substantial failure. For some it has been profitable — contractors and some militants but for the majority nothing has improved. The training and job opportunities for ex-militants is practically non-existent at least not in terms of quality. And the promised changes towards development of the region have not materialised and the oil companies continue to pump out oil, flare gas and leave the environment covered in oil sludge. Recently the  then Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan met with ex-militant leaders in an attempt to pacify rumblings of a return to armed struggle with more promises. However talk is cheap and unless their is some tangible improvement to people’s lives the militancy will return and next time they will not so easily give up their arms. The new law signed by Jonathan last Friday which gives preference to local firms servicing the oil sector is also unlikely to bring any significant benefit to indigenous communities. Rather it will simply transfer access to monies from the multinationals to the Nigerian business and local political elite and is embedded with corruption before it even starts.  Will his presidency make a difference?  I am yet to see any positive move towards change in the Niger Delta.  Possibly he is too busy traveling the world and meeting with fellow presidents or fighting for his political life against those who do not want to see him run.  Either way he needs to deal with the home front and quick – patience is running out and increased militarisation will not be the answer or work in his favour.

2 Comments

  1. Robert Trujillo

    Thank you for posting, trying to learn more about the conditions there to break down the conditions here……
    -Rob
    http://investigateconversateillustrate.blogspot

  2. Sokari

    Thanks for passing by and for searching for the connections!