The Niger delta amnesty: Lessons four years on

The Niger delta amnesty: Lessons four years on

On 26 June 2009, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced that it would grant an amnesty and unconditional pardon to militants in the Niger Delta. A 60-day period was allowed for armed youths to surrender their weapons in return for training and rehabilitation by the government. The strategy of buying off militant leaders, and clamping down militarily and with the force of the law on those who continued to operate, has been largely successful. The resulting ceasefire has held for four years, despite the shortcomings of the amnesty when viewed as a demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) programme. This brief examines the Niger Delta amnesty declared in June 2009, from the perspective of its achievements, limitations and risks.

The amnesty officially resulted in the demobilisation of 30,000 militants, paying them allowances and providing training for a smaller number. It has markedly reduced conflict in the region. However, the amnesty was not part of a coherent and co-ordinated peace-building and reconciliation plan, and is unlikely to be able to facilitate sufficient employment for demobilised militants. In its partial nature, it has also neglected non-combatants who had been impacted by violence. On these and other grounds, the sustainability of its achievements remains in question.

The author offers the following lessons, policy implications and recommendations for supporting Amnesty's peace building initiatives:

  • government (including the Ministry of Youth and Employment, the Local Content Monitoring Board), IOCs and international development partners need to work together with the Amnesty Programme Implementation committee to design effective employment generation strategies for youth
  • for stability to be sustainable beyond the amnesty, a comprehensive post-conflict reconciliation and peacebuilding programme for the Niger Delta will be required as a priority
  • comprehensive security-sector reform, along with the reconciliation-building programme recommended above, is needed in order to build trust as the basis of effective and rigorous disarmament
  • agencies charged with responsibility for the provision of infrastructure need a clear sense of direction, and to be seen to deliver timely results

[adapted from author]

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