• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Before amnesty fails?


The Federal Government recently announced amnesty and its terms for militants in the Niger Delta region. The amnesty followed few months of renewed hostilities in the area between militants and the Joint Task Force set up by the Federal Government to police the region. It also followed many casualties on both sides.

The amnesty pronouncement is also the latest in the measures by the Federal Government to bring an end to thecrisis in the troubled region. To ensure that the Amnesty is effectively carried out, the Niger Delta states have been asked to compile a list of the returnee-militants that have embraced the new order.

However, since this pronouncement, there have been attacks on Shell’s oil production facilities. These attacks give the clearest indication that the pronouncement is not an end in itself. Indeed, the pronouncement and its management raise many issues pertaining to the success and the ending of crisis in the Niger Delta region. From all indications, the sincerity of the government is still doubtful. More importantly, it raises the issue of whether the amnesty process is adequate and/or sustainable.
It is important that government looks deeply into the reasons for further attacks after the amnesty was pronnounced. It is possible that the militancy situation and arrangement in the region is fragmented and so, acknowledged leaders may not have the co-operation of all. Government must not give the impression that it is offering money in exchange. This is against the principle of not giving arms for money, and it is even not sustainable. In this circumstance, other measures than the amnesty would be required to bring an end to the crisis. In addition, the amnesty will only succeed when the reason for it is understood by the government. The amnesty option came up because past efforts had been conducted piecemeal.
Providing the needed leadership for carrying the project through is critical to the success of the whole exercise. Lack of genuine leadership has been blamed for the non-implementation of the various commissions that have been set up on the region. Government must provide the leadership by addressing the problems of the area once and for all. She must also block all the leakages that have helped to bring the region to its present situation. This is necessary because it was due to lack of transparent leadership that all the previous agencies that were set up for intervention failed to perform.

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Therefore, government’s efforts have to be holistic, consistent and visible. If the government backtracks once again as oil production resumes in the region, the amnesty option will fail and will have to think of another strategy. And the many issues are well known to everyone, including the very serious problem of environmental degradation and pollutions.
Acid rain occasioned by persistent gas flaring over the years has led to corrosion of roofs of houses in the oil-producing communities. The rivers which are the major sources of drinking water for the people have been polluted. They are now brownish with their surfaces tainted by crude oil that spilled through exploration and production activities.
The consequence of all these is the alarming poverty level staring the natives in the face. The level of poverty in the region is unacceptable by any standard and only portrays the government as insensitive to the plight of the citizens.
There is the issue of ecological problems also threatening the inhabitants of the region. Revenue generated from the exploitation of these resources is not trickling down to the people themselves, thereby engendering high level poverty and a sense of alienation.
It is in the light of these daunting problems that a few critics of the government have argued that the Amnesty would not work unless the terms are properly addressed which must include state governments in the troubled region.