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Fragile Niger Delta

STILL gloating over the peace it is said to have created in  the Niger Delta, the Federal Government has again shown the shallowness of its engagements with Nigerians.

The disarmament of the militants was an emergency measure solely for the survival of the economy.

Only two months after the amnesty was closed, and with the militants who turned in their armaments meant to be in rehabilitation, ex-militants staged protests last week over their unpaid allowances. How could the vastly lauded exercise have failed to benefit militants?

Amnesty was government’s response to flagging oil revenue. Militants were bursting pipelines, including ones bearing crude for export. Kidnaps of foreign oil workers made the Niger Delta unsafe for profitable oil exploration.

After failed moves to buy over the militants, government tried the military option, which increased damage done to the region yet failed to secure oil operations. The offer of amnesty to militants who surrendered their weapons, worked, producing tonnes of armaments.

Officials jostled for photo opportunities with militant leaders to prove their roles in the amnesty. It was not too long after that cracks on the amnesty package began to show. People had wondered about rewards and incentives for militants when they turn in their weapons.

There were conflicting positions on this. Some said government would not pay for the armaments, all government would do is to rehabilitate them. Others stated that training for employment skill was enough reward.

Protests in Warri, Yenagoa and Calabar stemmed from frustrations at government’s pace. There had been other riots, including one in Port Harcourt where militants camped near the university descended on the academic community and nearby places and in Benin City when militants were ejected from a secondary school accommodation when schools resumed.

Why would names of militants, who registered with the banks, as they were told, be sent to Abuja for verification? The preferential treatment militants get would create new security challenges.

Government since it had no proper plan for the amnesty has been busy managing the huge oil receipt. All efforts should be made to sustain the gains of the peace. This includes creating jobs for other youth who chose not to be militants.

One of the most important ways of sustaining peace is to ensure that the  populace is equipped for life outside crimes.

The impression that government deceived militants into surrendering their arms is rising. To stop it, government must rededicate itself to the building of stronger ties with the ex-militants, provision for their needs and establishment of economic activities that would engage inhabitants of the region.

Development of infrastructure in the Niger Delta is equally critical. The people have been maginalised for long. They now demand quick solutions to long-neglected problems.

Their impatience is clearly understandable.


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