CPED Policy Brief Series 2015, No. 1
Key Stakeholders’ Assessment of the Impact of the Amnesty Programme on Sustainable Peace in Niger Delta, Nigeria
Policy Brief by
Centre for Population and Environmental Development, CPED
This Policy Brief is supported by the Governance, Security and Justice Program of the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC), Canada and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
(C) Centre for Population and Environmental Development (CPED)
BS-1 and SM-2, Ugbowo Shopping Complex,
Ugbowo Housing Estate,
P.O. Box 10085, Ugbowo Post Office,
Benin City, Nigeria.
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First produced in 2015
Professor Andrew G. Onokerhoraye
Executive Director, CPED, Benin City
This policy brief is the second in the series of communication to policy and decision makers on the on-going research project of the Centre for Population and Environmental Development (CPED) titled “Amnesties for Peace in the Niger Delta: a critical assessment of whether forgiving crimes of the past contributes to lasting peace” the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) under its Governance, Security and Justice program and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
The overall objective of the study is to critically interrogate the amnesty and the political settlement leading to it, in terms of perceptions, discourses and conversations that undergird it; the nature of bargains, understanding and consensus constructed around it; the content and methods of the Amnesty; the nature of inclusiveness, equity, justness and gender sensitivity; the levels of legitimacy and sustainability of the settlement; the challenges of compliance, implementation and accountability, and the impacts on violence mitigation, conflict resolution, peace building and state building.
CPED’s Policy Brief Series is designed to draw attention to key findings and their policy implications as projects are being executed. This policy brief presents the findings of the qualitative surveys of the expected impact of the amnesty programme on sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region after the termination of the programme which was originally planned to last for three years but now extended to five years. The qualitative surveys entailed key informant interviews and focus group discussions with key stakeholders and groups. The policy brief is therefore based on the views of these stakeholders with respect to their expectations of the impact of the amnesty programme for sustainable peace in the Niger Delta based on their assessment of the implementation of the programme.
We are particularly grateful to the Governance, Security and Justice Program of IDRC and the Carnegie Corporation of New York for the support to CPED which has enabled the Centre to carry out the study and the publication of this policy brief.
Andrew G. Onokerhoraye
Key Stakeholders’ Assessment of the implementation of the Amnesty programme on Sustainable Peace in Niger Delta
It now about five years since the commencement of the implementation of the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The Federal Government of Nigeria through the amnesty programme had good intentions for granting the militants amnesty with the hope that the gesture would effectively stop the raging restiveness in the crisis-ridden Niger Delta Region, help considerably in the socio-economic development of the area, engage the ex-militants in gainful employment, as well as other meaningful activities that could help improve their living conditions. The Niger-Delta now appears rather peaceful and optimistic in the future. Sustaining the relative peace in the region is a pre-condition for sustaining a long term and stable growth and development in the region. A key expectation of the Amnesty Programme is the promotion of sustainable peace in the Niger Delta which will continue to facilitate socio-economic development in the region. However, after five years of the implementation of the programme, there are fears that considering the mode of implementation sustainable peace may not be realized when the programme is terminated. It is in this context that the assessment of key stakeholders comprising community leaders in Nigeria Delta, political leaders, military personnel and militants were interviewed on their perception of the impact of the amnesty programme on sustainable peace in the Niger Delta.
This policy brief is based on the findings of an on-going research on “Amnesties for Peace in the Niger Delta: a critical assessment of whether forgiving crimes of the past contributes to lasting peace” The project is funded jointly by the Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada under its program Governance, Security and Justice and the Carnegie Corporation of new York. The overall objective of the study is to critically interrogate the amnesty and the political settlement leading to it, in terms of perceptions, discourses and conversations that undergird it; the nature of bargains, understanding and consensus constructed around it; the content and methods of the Amnesty; the nature of inclusiveness, equity, justness and gender sensitivity; the levels of legitimacy and sustainability of the settlement; the challenges of compliance, implementation and accountability, and the impacts on violence mitigation, conflict resolution, peace building and state building. The project’s specific objectives include: conducting a comprehensive review and analysis of the nature, drivers and expressions of violent conflicts in the Niger Delta region and assess the impacts that the amnesty programme has had on conflict mitigation, peace building, national stability, and the potential for conflict re-occurrence; mapping out the experiences, challenges and lessons facing the amnesty programme as a form of political settlement in the Niger Delta and the implications for sustainable peace and nation building in Nigeria and more broadly in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa; and assessing the extent to which the amnesty programme was inclusive, and whether this inclusiveness contributed to its sustainability.
This policy brief presents the findings of the qualitative surveys of the expected impact of the amnesty programme on sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region after the termination of the programme which was originally planned to last for three years but now extended to five years. The qualitative surveys entailed key informant interviews and focus group discussions with key stakeholders and groups. The policy brief is therefore based on the views of these stakeholders with respect to their expectations of the impact of the amnesty programme for sustainable peace in the Niger Delta based on their assessment of the implementation of the programme.
Ethical and Security considerations
The Niger Delta region is still a volatile area despite the relative peace which the Amnesty programme has brought to the region. Consequently, conducting a study in Niger Delta requires both security and ethical considerations. With respect to security protocol, this was designed to protect the researchers in the field and the respondents so that they are not harmed during the process of conducting the surveys. One component of the security and ethical protocol is the fact that the rural communities in which the surveys were carried out are not disclosed so as to protect the inhabitants from any harassment. The research protocol entailing the research methodology and the survey instruments were approved by the University of Benin’s Ethical Review Committee. Permission was also obtained from the traditional authorities in the respective communities. For each participant interviewed, informed consent was obtained. Similarly focus group participants also gave their consent before being asked to participate in the discussions. The project research team informed the participants regarding the purpose, methods and procedure of the study. The participants made an informed choice to take part in the study, and did so freely and voluntarily. They were asked to give verbal approval before the commencement of the interactions while in some cases respondents and participants were asked to sign or thumb print on a form to indicate that they had given their informed consent to be interviewed. They were informed that they could refuse to answer any question or discontinue their participation at any time. The privacy of the participants was respected throughout the surveys and all information collected has been kept strictly confidential just as the communities were kept confidential. The participants’ anonymity was sustained by substituting their names with numbers or codes. Participants were treated fairly and any unclear information was clarified for them during the focus group discussions and key informant interviews.
Using the random sample survey methodology key stakeholders in the Niger Delta region were selected from Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States for key informant interviews. In conducting the interviews, a qualitative, descriptive and exploratory research design was used to examine a variety of issues relating to the implementation and impact of the Amnesty programme on sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region. The population of the qualitative survey comprised key stakeholders comprising traditional leaders, political leaders, women and the youth including former militants. Key informant interviews entailed collecting data by means of unstructured questionnaires which lasted between 60 and 120 minutes each, using the direct contact approach. The unstructured interviews were carried out more like normal conversation, but with a purpose which in this case is their assessment of the implementation and impact of the amnesty programme on sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region. During the interviews probing questions were asked in order to elicit more information from the participants and show participants that the researcher was interested in their experiences. The interviews were recorded by means of a tape recorder to prevent loss of data, and transcripts were made of the recordings.
The various issues discussed during the key informant and focus group discussions relate to the following questions: Do you think that the peace and security in the Niger Delta is sustainable? ; What do you think is responsible for the current relative security and stability in the Niger Delta? ; In what ways has the Amnesty Programme reduced violent conflicts in the Niger Delta?; How has the Amnesty Programme affected crime and political violence in the region?; How has the Amnesty Programme affected youth restiveness in the region?; How has the Amnesty Programme contributed to national stability?; What are the chances that there will be no reoccurrence of violent conflicts?; In what ways do you think that the Amnesty Programme and the nature of its management can lead to reoccurrence of violent conflicts in the Niger Delta?; What conditions are likely to lead to reoccurrence of conflicts?; What do you think will lead to reoccurrence of violent conflicts?; How would you assess the level of accountability and transparency in the management of the Amnesty Programme?; In what ways have the managers of the Amnesty Programme built confidence in both ex-militants and Nigerians?
The transcripts and notes from the focus group discussions and key informant interviews were analysed using content analysis. At the first step of the analysis, the transcripts and notes were reordered to the topics addressed by the discussion. At the second step of the analysis, issues that were brought forward repeatedly or were discussed at length by the participants, and relevant parts from each FGD and notes were ordered by these issues, using a ‘cut and paste’ method. The third step was to make a summary of the results for each FGD, based on the issues examined in the discussions. The summaries were reviewed by an external expert to test whether the summaries were good representations of the FGDs and the summaries were then revised based on the expert’s comments. Finally, an overall summary of the discussions was made.
The impact of the amnesty programme so far
The various stakeholders during focus group discussion and key informant interviews agreed and concluded on the following components of the impact of the amnesty programme:
· The amnesty was granted to the Niger Delta militants at a crucial period in the history of the country whose unity and stability were visibly threatened through the criminal activities of the militants. Respondents agreed that the action was a step in the right direction;
· With the proclamation of the amnesty programme, all the ex-agitators had since been “fully disarmed, demobilised and are either currently in training or have since been trained.” The Federal Government has so far enlisted 30,000 former militants in the amnesty programme;
· Peace and security have since returned in the Niger Delta region. The Federal Government has thus met the target of restoring peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta using the instrumentalities of the Amnesty Programme; and as a result, the nation’s economy has rebounded. At the peak of the crisis in 2009, Nigeria’s crude production fell from 2.2million barrels per day to as low as 700,000 barrels per day. Following the proclamation and implementation of the amnesty programme, crude production hovers between 2.4 million and 2.6 million barrels per day.
· Under the programme, thousands of youths have undergone vocational training in various centres within and outside the country for acquisition of skills in relevant fields while others were enrolled in formal educational institutions.
· The amnesty programme has had some beneficial and positive impact on socio-economic activities in the Niger Delta region. As young men who had hitherto constituted themselves into a nuisance to society, vandalising oil pipelines, kidnapping oil workers and generally disturbing the peace, have largely made themselves amenable to acquiring skills, trade and profession, so also has the Niger Delta region taken advantage of the lull in the nefarious activities to make business and economic activities to thrive accordingly.
· Thus, the amnesty programme rebranded and gave Nigeria a positive image among the comity of nations as far as the Niger Delta situation was concerned.
· Respondents pointed out that among all the development agencies that have operated in the Niger Delta region; the Amnesty Programme has created more impact on the lives of the ordinary masses especially youths.
The challenges of the amnesty programme
Despite the recognition of some positive impacts of the amnesty program by the various stakeholders they identified a variety of challenges confronting the implementation of the programme which can have negative impact on sustainable development and peace in the Niger Delta region. Some of the key statements from the interaction with the stakeholders are as follows:
· It was pointed out by the stakeholders that most of the ex-militants granted amnesty and were promised benefits from the amnesty programme seem to have been abandoned. Only the prominent leaders, some of whom have been awarded oil pipeline protection contracts worth billions of naira and have become multi-billionaires overnight, have been settled. Thus a large number of the ex-militants are now aggrieved because of their exclusion from the programme. Thus oil theft, a lucrative criminal industry, has drawn many militants new and old back into the delta’s winding creeks
· Some of the aggrieved ex-militants are still threatening to resume their dastardly acts having been excluded from the amnesty largesse. This has led to the return of various forms of criminality in Niger Delta, especially kidnapping, destruction of pipelines etc.
· The gilded pacification campaign is offered up by the government as a success story. But others say the program, including a 2009 amnesty, has sent young men in Nigeria’s turbulent delta a different message: that militancy promises more rewards than risks.
· While richly remunerated former kingpins profess to have left the oil-theft business, many former militant foot soldiers who are paid less or not at all by the amnesty, and have few job prospects, continue to pursue prosperity by tapping pipelines
· Most of the trainees on graduation from skills acquisition/training centres have not been able to secure employment.
· There is also the very difficult situation of explaining to thousands of unemployed youths in the States in the Niger Delta that we are unable to include them in the post-Amnesty package since the Programme itself is designed for just a limited or specific category of persons who renounced violence and accepted the offer of amnesty on or before October 4th, 2009. Basically, the grouse most youths have with the programme is that it should be expanded to accommodate more youths other than ex-combatants.
· The amnesty programme did not incorporate in its packages credible and comprehensive stakeholders’ consultation. The opinion of the inhabitants that suffered the brunt of the environmental degradation were ignored. Whatever consultation and endorsement they got were from governors and few traditional rulers who only did not feel the negative impact of oil exploration but also connived with the managers of the Nigerian state to undermine the devastating impact suffered by the people.
· The actualization of peace in line with the amnesty package is on the negative side. The Nigerian state conceived peace as merely the absence of turmoil, tension, conflict and war. Peace on the positive side is conceived as a condition of good management, orderly resolution of conflict, harmony associated with mature relationships, gentleness and love
· The amnesty as it stands, is only concerned about the symptoms persuading the youths to surrender their arms while the cause which incorporates unemployment, poverty, infrastructural decay and general underdevelopment that affect the generality of people in the Niger Delta are unattended to. This has grave implications for the renewed violent agitations in the Niger Delta. Perhaps most tellingly, oil theft has risen in 2012 and 2013, with the gangs perpetrating it often including ex-militants. The trend in theft suggests frustrated ex-militants are tiring of waiting for jobs and payouts and engaging instead in criminality. Deploying soldiers to pursue thieves could trigger clashes between them and the ex-militants, setting the stage for cycles of reprisals.
Implications for sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region
The key stakeholders concluded that the prospects of the amnesty programme providing the framework for sustainable peace are quite limited. They pointed out that post-amnesty events tend to suggest that the peace process in respect of the Niger Delta debacle is yet to materialize. There appears to be a backlash leading to the re-emergence of violence and criminality in the region. These acts have been largely orchestrated by dissident and criminal elements in the ranks of the erstwhile militant formations that are hell bent on sabotaging the state in view of self- regarding or political concerns. In effect, there have been rising cases at organized crime, piracy, oil theft (oil bunkering), kidnapping and the likes in the Niger Delta region over the recent months. The implication of this is that the peace process in the Niger Delta is yet to be actualized. This raises anxiety to the effect that the seeming gains of the amnesty project are being persistently jeopardized. Overall, the prospects of the amnesty project have been threatened in the following Instances: The rise of dissident militants and criminal element who are currently sabotaging the amnesty initiative; Bastardization of the Amnesty implementation through politicization and corruption; Sense of alienation and marginalization by a section of the Niger Delta youth who feel that they have been unjustly excluded or short-charged in the amnesty process; The seeming lethargy of the government in addressing the fundamental development concerns of the Niger Delta through affirmative policies and actions, etc.