Attaining development in the absence of peace is a mirage. In view of this fact, ORIAIFOH GODWINS of our Sub-Desk writes on whether it is possible to grant amnesty to the insurgents in North-east Nigeria
In his last parley with the press recently, as his tenure ended with the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, Honourable Kingsley Kuku, Special Adviser to Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta, and chairman, Presidential Amnesty Programme, recalled how the Niger Delta, the economic mainstay of Nigeria, that was once notorious for its restiveness is today the most peaceful and the most investment-friendly part of the country. The efforts of the amnesty office with the help of the media, he said, aided the deepening of safety and security in the entire Gulf of Guinea. This he said has helped buoying the country’s economy.
It will be recalled that the processes of achieving political solution, rather than sustaining the military option in solving the Niger Delta crisis, began earnestly in 2007 and was ably coordinated by the then Vice President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and approved by the late President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. This political option, which culminated in the extraction of peace commitment from the agitators and of course the proclamation of amnesty by the federal government doused a lot of tension and eventually prevented the escalation of dreaded activities of the agitators.
Before amnesty was granted to the agitators, military option designed to confront the situation failed. The huge sum of money that was expended on it all went down the drain until a truce was brokered by some persons on behalf of the federal government and the militants. In all, 30,000 persons from the Niger Delta who accepted the offer of amnesty were enlisted in the Presidential Amnesty Programme. In strict compliance with the commitments made in the Amnesty Proclamation, the federal government, in October 2009, instituted a post-Amnesty Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration, DDR, package for the ex-agitators.
However, in the terms of the amnesty that was offered by the government, the agitators were conditioned to willingly surrender their arms, unconditionally renounce militancy and sign an undertaking to that effect. In return, government also pledged its commitment to institute programmes that would assist the DDR and reintegrate the former agitators into the society. Again, government pledged to decisively address the issues of resource control, environmental remediation, shore protection, pollution and gas flaring, provision of critical infrastructure as well as construction of coastal roads, bridges and railway lines which were the issues that led to militancy.
However, even though government has not made good some of its promises, especially the ones that concern the issues that led to militancy, Kuku seized the opportunity to call on the incoming administration to sustain the amnesty programme and also endeavour to tackle the degradation in the area.
Also, one of the leaders of the ex-agitators, Stanley Patrick Ogbakri, from Bomadi, Delta state appealed to the incoming government of Muhammadu Buhari to sustain the amnesty programme, saying, even if their stipends must be slashed so as to make funds available for the provision of the much needed infrastructure, the ex agitators will be willing to make that sacrifice; so long as the infrastructures are made available for the benefit of the people. He said, with the presence of infrastructures, firms will be attracted to the region and will eventually lead to the employment of the youths. Mr Ogbakri went on to say that, the youths in the Niger Delta region are in millions and not just the 30, 000 youths that are currently benefiting from the amnesty programme.
Thursday June 25, 2015 marks exactly six years since the federal government of Nigeria, in a bid to stabilise security conditions in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, proclaimed unconditional amnesty for former agitators. Many people are now wondering: what are the gains that have so far been derived from the declaration of amnesty and from the programme?
It should be understandable that the peace that the Niger Delta region is currently enjoying wouldn’t have been possible if not for the amnesty that the federal government granted to, and was embraced by the agitators. The multiplier effect of the prevalence of peace in the Niger Delta region is manifested in the confidence that investors are now moving to the area to stake their monies. Again, in the long run, the creation of employment and gradual rebuilding of the region will sure follow suit as the Niger Delta is now relatively safe, secure and ripe for fresh investments in the oil and gas sector, the agro-allied businesses, as well as in the services sector.
Again, it would be recalled that, at the peak of the crisis in 2009, Nigeria’s crude production fell to as low as 700,000 barrels per day. However, owing to the success of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Nigeria’s crude production in the last five years has hovered between 2.2 – 2.7m barrels per day.
A cording to Kuku, “I can boldly affirm that the amnesty proclamation and the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation, DDR, programme for former agitators in the Niger Delta, have generally met the desired goal, which is the stabilization of security conditions in the strategic Niger Delta area. All the ex-agitators who were in the creeks fighting against the federal government and impacting against investments and oil production have since been fully disarmed, demobilized and are either currently in training or have since been trained with a view to adding to national GDP and improving themselves and their families”, he said.
It is on record that a total number of 30,000 persons were enlisted in the Amnesty Programme. It must however be clarified that it is not true that all the 30,000 persons enrolled in the Amnesty Programme were arms bearers, as the internationally recognized post-conflict DDR rules, as spelt out by the United Nations, permits the enlistment of non-arms bearing relatives, children, informants, and several other allies of the actual ex-combatant in Amnesty programmes.
Today, a good number of the agitators are studying different courses including Law, Political Science, International Relations, Engineering, Accounting and Medicine in institutions of higher learning across the world. One of the beneficiaries of the programme, Mr Tarila Nathan Dressman, who is currently a chemical technician with Impact Chemical Technologies, Texas, USA, said if not for the amnesty programme, he would have been useless to himself and a nuisance to the country in spite of the fact that he had a bachelors degree at the time he was in the creeks with the Niger Delta agitators. But today, through the amnesty programme, he has not only been able to obtain a Masters Degree, but has also secured a befitting job with a petrochemical firm. He added that he plans to work out how the company he works with can come and set up a subsidiary in Nigeria for the benefit of the country, as well as to create employment for other less privileged youths in the country.
Furthermore, the Amnesty Office has trained over 20,000 Niger Delta youths in different skills and vocations. The Amnesty Office has aided a number of them to secure gainful employment or set up their business, a situation that would no have been possible if not for the support and backings of the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and the National Assembly.
In view of all the above, can the same gesture be extended to the Boko Haram insurgents that are currently marauding the North Eastern Nigeria? Is it possible that the troubled region can heave a sigh of relief if this important disarmament strategy is extended to them?

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