n Conflict Trends - Amnesty at risk : is the Niger Delta sliding back into instability?

Volume 2014, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


Since 1956, the Niger Delta has produced the oil wealth that forms the backbone of Nigeria's economy. Paradoxically, the region remains one of the least developed and least environmentally healthy regions in a country that is the seventh-largest oil producer in the world. Decades of oil exploration and exploitation in the Niger Delta have resulted in extensive pollution of the environment through incessant oil spills and gas flaring. This, in turn, has impacted disastrously on the sociophysical environment of the oil-bearing communities in the region, massively threatening the subsistent peasant economy and the environment and, hence, the entire livelihood and basic survival of over 31 million inhabitants. Years of neglect and conflict have fostered a siege mentality, specifically among the Niger Delta youth, who feel they are condemned to a future without hope and see armed conflict and criminality as a strategy to make their voices heard. Persistent conflict, while in part a response to appalling socio-economic conditions, has also entrenched it, serving as a consistent drag on the region's development performance writ large.

This article critically examines the current state of the 2009 amnesty programme that was initiated to halt the downward spiral into violence in the Niger Delta and ostensibly resolve the region's socio-economic challenges. The article argues that the amnesty scheme has failed to address the core underlying issues (for example, government corruption, the political sponsorship of violence and environmental degradation by oil multinational corporations) that continue to fuel hostilities and resistance in the Niger Delta. The recent heightened criminality in the Niger Delta suggests that the fragile peace established by the amnesty programme is now at risk, and the region seems to be sliding back into instability.

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