The Niger Delta crisis has been a phenomenon that has drawn concern and attraction from within and outside the shores of the country Nigeria. The tension in the region has progressed from peaceful agitation to a violent one and this has brought about instability in the region. This prompted the Nigerian government to grant an unconditional pardon or amnesty to the Niger Delta militants. The aim or objective of this study is tailored towards determining if the amnesty granted to the former militia combatants is the path to peace in the Niger Delta region. The theoretical framework adopted in the study is the frustration aggression theory. The concept of amnesty, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) and peace was discussed in the course of the study. This study adopted the secondary method of data collection. The secondary data was sourced from relevant books, journals, articles, newspapers and online materials. The findings in this study revealed that the amnesty offer granted to the ex-combatant is temporal. And so, this study concluded that though the presidential amnesty if well implemented is a panacea to close the curtain on militancy in the region, until the grievances of the region are addressed to reverse the development deficit, peace will continue to be elusive if the fundamental causes of the crisis or conflict are left unaddressed.
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1.1 Background to the Study
Although the Niger delta produces the bulk of Nigeria’s oil and gas wealth, it remains one of the least-developed parts of the country (Ibaba & Ikelegbe, 2010). This paradox has triggered a conflict that has lingered on for five decades. This conflict has manifested as huge militarism of the region, militia insurgency, hostilities between youth militias and the Nigerian military, militia attacks on the oil industry and oil theft. Since the late 1990s, militia groups such as the Niger delta people’s volunteer force (NDVPF), movement for the emancipation of the Niger delta (MEND), and Niger delta people’s salvation front (NDPSF) have been involved in hostilities against the military and transnational oil companies.
The conflict that began as a community protest against TNOCs resulted in insurgency driven by militia groups. This posed a threat to the nation’s economy and security. And so, it was in a bid to curtail this that the Nigerian government proclaimed amnesty for militia combatants, as a first step to end violence and build peace in the region.
The federal government of Nigeria under the leadership of late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua on June 25th 2009 granted amnesty to the militants with effect from August 6th 2009 and gave sixty (60) days grace period to turn in their arms and renounce militancy in return for freedom from prosecution and development intervention in the region. The granting of amnesty has led to the cessation of attacks on the oil industry, giving indication of a return to peace in the region.
But to some scholars the Niger Delta still represents one of the sources of political destabilization, hindrance to economic development, national security and peace of the Nigerian state. They argue that the amnesty is not a sure path to peace in the Niger Delta. Although the government and other commentators have disputed this, recent events such as attacks on security personnel and rising crude oil theft raises doubt. It is against this background that this study joins the debate on the propriety of the amnesty as a peace building tool in the region.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Nigeria’s federal government granted amnesty to the Niger Delta militants on the 25th of June, 2009. Although the amnesty was eventually accepted by militant leaders, it was regarded initially as unsustainable by civil society groups, academics, security advisers and oil executives who saw it as a “quick fix” solution that did not address the underlying causes of militancy throughout the region. The implementation of the amnesty and post-amnesty DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) programme was also seen as flawed. The results of the post-amnesty implementation programme since Jonathan’s assumption of the Presidency appear to be better than initially expected (UK Niger Delta Working Group2012).
However, fears have been expressed by different personalities as to whether the amnesty would bring about peace in the Niger Delta Region. In expressing his fears the President of The Nigerian Guild of Editors (Guardian 2010p 8) posited that “Peace in the Niger Delta is Peace in Nigeria.” Also the Ogoni students in the United States of America in November 10, 2009 asserted emphatically that “the amnesty will not solve the Niger Delta crisis.”With the presence of the military still evident in the Niger Delta, one is tempted to ask if really the amnesty has brought about peace in the Region. Whilst the amnesty has made considerable gains, these gains cannot be consolidated if longer term security considerations in the Niger Delta are not taken seriously.
Many participants of the UK Niger Delta Working Group agreed that the amnesty programme alone with its 26,358 strong target group even if successfully implemented could never ultimately contribute to sustainable peace in the Niger Delta in the longer term without addressing the needs of the wider population not affected by it, or the deeper causes of militancy in the Niger Delta (UK Niger Delta Working Group 2012). Both oil companies and members of the amnesty committee agreed that peace will remain fragile if the underlying causes of militancy are left unaddressed (UK Niger Delta Working Group 2012).
It is noticeable that in the post-amnesty the focus of youth has moved from kidnapping to oil pipeline vandalism as well as disruption of working of oil facilities and their installations to the illegal refining of crude oil into kerosene and diesel. These illegal refineries alongside the legal refineries serve as destructive agents, with gas flaring causing rapid depletion of the ozone layer due to the emissions of greenhouse gases. It is evident that the assessment of the post-amnesty programme and its attendant situation in relation to the present level of development, security and peace in the Niger Delta region is very pertinent at this point. The question is, is the amnesty the path to peace in the Niger Delta?
1.3 Objectives of Study
To determine if the amnesty granted to former militia combatants is the path to peace in the Niger Delta.
This study tested the following hypothesis:
That the amnesty is not the path to peace due to the neglect of the fundamental causes of the Niger Delta crisis. The amnesty appears not to be the road to peace.
1.5 Theoretical Framework
This study adopted the frustration-aggression theory as its theoretical framework. The frustration-aggression theory is a theory of aggression proposed by John Dollard, Neal E. Miller et al. in 1939, and further developed by Miller, Roger Barker et al. in 1941 and Leonard Berkowitz in 1969. The theory opines that aggression is the result of blocking, or frustrating a person’s efforts to attain a goal. In an attempt to explain aggression, scholars who agree with this postulation point to the difference between what people feel they want or deserve to and what they actually get – the “want-get-ratio” (Feierabends, 1969: 256-7, cited by Shedrack Gaya Best in the Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies in West Africa) and difference between “expected need satisfaction” and “actual need satisfaction” (Davies, 1962:6).
This is in consonance with Ted Roberts Gurr’s assertion, relative deprivation thesis which stipulates that “the greater the discrepancy, however marginal, between what is sought and what seem attainable, the greater will be the chances that anger and violence will result” (1970). In addition, the frustration –aggression hypothesis, otherwise known as the frustration-aggression-displacement theory, attempts to explain why people scapegoat (that is, blamed for the wrongdoings of others). It attempts to give an explanation as to the cause of violence. The theory developed by Dollard and his colleagues posits that ‘frustration’ causes aggression.
Relating the frustration-aggression theory to the Niger Delta crisis it is evident that “the Niger Delta is the economic jewel of Nigeria, as it hosts almost all of Nigeria’s oil and gas that accounts for over 80% of government revenue, 95% of export receipts and 90% of foreign exchange earnings (World Bank 2002:1, Imobighe 2004:101 cited by Ikelegbe ND). Yet, it receives only little of these resources, and the prosperity generated has not touched the lives of the ordinary citizens in the region (Ikelegbe ND). The region is said to be one of the least developed and poorest in the country (UNDP 2006).
The contradiction between being the bread basket on the one hand and underdevelopment, deepening poverty and misery on the other has produced mass discontent, resentment, alienation and hostility, and a generation of angry citizens (Ikelegbe ND: 1). More so, after waiting and peacefully agitating for what the people of the Region, Niger Delta considered a fair share of the oil wealth that is exploited from their land, youths have now taken the law into their hand own hands by vandalizing oil pipelines, kidnapping of oil workers for huge ransoms and generally creating problems for those they believe are responsible for their predicament because of the reluctant attitude of the Nigerian Government in addressing the cries of the Niger Delta indigenes (Ademola ND cited by Gaya 2007 in Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies in West Africa).
The relevance of the frustration-aggression theory is that it causes us to have a clearer picture of the Niger Delta situation. The argument is that psychology teaches that frustration creates worry which in turn leads to anger and ultimately violence and this captures the reality in the Niger Delta. The frustration-aggression theory clearly illustrates why the ethnic militias in the Niger Delta have resorted to violence as a form of response to the state of affairs in the region. It is thus plausible to locate the Niger Delta crisis, especially the upsurge in violent behaviour by the militants prior to the amnesty offer within the context of the frustration that arose as a result of unfulfilled expectations.
The methodology here refers to the method to be utilized in this research study. This research study adopted secondary data in its data collection and analysis specifically, the documentary analysis and/or documentary observation method. Below is a table showing the type of data and sources of data.
Type Of Data Collected
Secondary Data Books
- Internet Sources/Materials
This research work is divided into five (5) chapters. The first deals with the introduction, and it also contains the statement of problem, the theoretical framework that was used to explain the Niger Delta phenomenon and the importance of the study. The second chapter has to do with the literature review which will entail the researcher to look at already published works, journals, newspapers and articles on the variables present in the research title or topic such as amnesty and peace. The third chapter concerns the setting of the research where the researcher looked at the Niger Delta, history of oil industry and history of the conflict in the region.
The fourth deals with discussing of the work or study. This is because I adopted the desk study which is one of the methods of secondary data collection unlike the primary data collection which will have to do with data presentation. The fifth which is the final chapter of this research study consist of my recommendations, summary of the entire research work and conclusion.
The secondary method of data collection is less expensive. More so, this technique of data collection is descriptive and analytical in nature. This technique of data collection will make it necessary for the researcher to gather data ranging from already published books and materials, articles and journals, private and public documents, and press materials such as newspapers.
1.7 Scope of Study
This study is concerned about the Niger Delta and examining whether or not the amnesty granted to the militants is the path to peace in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The time dimension used in this study is 2009 to 2013. This is the period when the amnesty offer was granted to the Niger Delta militants by the Nigerian government and the beginning of the rehabilitation process.
1.8 Limitation of Study
It is worthy to make mention here that despite the soundness a research work has there must be some limitations and factors that acted as an obstacle to the researcher. Thus, one of the obstacles to this study is the difficulty in obtaining relevant data. In addition, insufficient funds also acted as an obstacle. Also, time constraint is another limitation to this work.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned, the researcher believes that a good research study had been carried out. And so, it is the hope that the findings of this study will be acceptable and will in turn lead to development in the Niger Delta region.
1.9 Significance of Study
The significance of this research study is hinged on the fact that the findings from this study will fill an existing gap in the discourse. From the research study, I found out that a large number of Nigerians particularly indigenes of Niger Delta are of the view that the amnesty granted to the militants in the Niger Delta would not solve the age long crisis in the region. In some quarters they opine that the Nigerian state should move from theoretical to practical federalism, so that each component unit would get the free hand to control its resources and determine the appropriate use of these resources. More so, I found out that the peace in the region will remain fragile if the underlying causes of militancy are left unaddressed.
Finally, I found out from the study that the amnesty offer sensitizes violence in the sense that it creates the awareness to the Nigerian populace that violence pays.
The study is relevant in the sense that since the Niger Delta crisis is a national issue, it will arouse the consciousness of the general public thereby helping to improve the policies pertaining to the development of the Niger Delta and bring about long lasting peace in the region to the populace that do not benefit from the amnesty offer.
The importance of this study is anchored on the fact that the findings will fill an existing gap; hence a contribution to knowledge as regards the Niger Delta crisis and the amnesty programme. Therefore to the academic community it will serve as a compliment to already existing literature on the issue.
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