Thursday, October 8, 2015

Niger Delta may erupt in violence again, International Group warns Buhari

An International conflict prevention group has warned that if the Muhammadu Buhari administration fails to urgently address the “long-simmering grievances” and deprivation in the oil rich Niger Delta, the region could soon erupt in violence again.

In its latest report issued September 29, the International Crisis Group warned that increasing complaints over chronic poverty and oil pollution as the Presidential Amnesty Programme for ex-militants reaches its twilight, may fuel a renewed rebellion in the region.

The group observed that since the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan, who is a native of the region in March, some activists have resumed their “agitation for greater resource control and self-determination” while some ex-militants have threatened to return to the creeks to resume the armed struggle that characterised the region prior to the amnesty programme.

At its peak in 2009, the insurgency in the Niger Delta cut Nigeria’s oil output by over 50 per cent and was costing the government close to four billion naira (nearly $19 million) per day in counter-insurgency operations, according to the International Crisis Group
An amnesty programme put in place by the government in 2009 helped in reducing violence in the region.

The report however said the programme failed woefully to address the inherent causes of violence in the region such as poverty, youth unemployment and environmental pollution caused primarily by oil spills.

“The government has largely failed to carry out other recommendations that addressed the insurgency’s root causes, including inadequate infrastructure, environmental pollution, local demands for a bigger share of oil revenues, widespread poverty and youth unemployment,” the report observed.

According to the report, the original arrangement where militants in the amnesty programme were paid through their leaders helped in making fighters dependent on their leaders as well as solidify the bond between them in such a way that makes it easy for the militant leaders to rally their fighters to cause trouble.

The report stated that because the stipend paid to ex-militants ( N65,000) is way more than the national minimum wage of N18,000 many ex-militants have become indolent and instead of seeking paid employment, rely on the stipend.

It however said stopping the payment of the stipend may create serious security challenges.

“There is a serious mismatch between the training the former militants receive and the job market. At the end of March 2015, reportedly only 151 of the 15,451 graduates from the training programs had found jobs with credible organisations in the country.

“Many currently being trained have high expectations of positions in oil, gas and aviation companies, but industry sources insist there presently is limited room to absorb many job-seeker. Frustrated graduates may be tempted to return to militancy or violent crime, only now better educated and more likely capable of extracting new concessions from the federal government,” it noted.

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