This paper offers a critical account of the amnesty programme introduced by the Nigerian state in 2009. It examines the impact and limitations of the amnesty as an instrument of peacebuilding, and emphasises the need for wider reforms that address underdevelopment and poverty in the Niger Delta region. The paper argues that the amnesty programme is a laudable effort but is by no means a silver bullet. It is better understood as a specific response to a resource-driven conflict that requires a broader, comprehensive resolution.
Nigeria’s resource wealth has been a major driver of conflict in the past 40 years. The Niger Delta region has been plagued by simmering grievances that blossomed over time into a popular insurgency against the Nigerian state and multinational oil companies (MOCs) (Ukiw, U. 2011. “The Nigerian State, Oil and the Niger Delta Crisis”. In Oil and Insurgency in the Niger Delta: Managing the Complex Politics of Petro-violence, Edited by: Obi, C. and Aas Rustad, S.17–27. London: Zed Books. ; Obi CI. 2006. Youth and the Generational Dimensions to the Struggle for Resource Control in the Niger Delta: Prospects for the Nation-State Project in Nigeria, Dakar: CODESRIA.Obi, CI. 2010. Oil Extraction, Dispossession, Resistance and Conflict in Nigeria’s Oil-Rich Niger Delta. Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 30(1–2): 219–236.
Indigenous communities have been adversely affected by oil extraction, with destruction of local livelihoods and severe environmental pollution.While it is commonly believed that the amnesty programme has promoted stability in oil production, there are underlying socio-political contradictions that undermine its effectiveness and credibility. This paper offers a critical account of the amnesty programme in Nigeria. The analysis is located within a narrative of the overarching political economy dynamics in Nigeria which are influence violence, underdevelopment and poverty in the Niger Delta region. The paper argues that the amnesty programme should be complemented with wider reforms that tackle the root causes of the Niger Delta crisis.
The next section provides a review of the amnesty programme which examines its objectives and operations. This is followed by a critical discussion of the limitations and weaknesses in the approach to amnesty in Nigeria. In conclusion, the paper identifies wider reforms that are needed for lasting peace, security and development in the Niger Delta.