A Nigerian government official with responsibility for the Niger Delta recently stated that the federal government’s amnesty program for the Delta, which began in 2009, is still in effect. But escalating violence and threats in the region are putting the amnesty to the test.
Some of the recent incidents and reports of violence include:
- The kidnapping, and subsequent rescue, of 19 oil workers.
- Military raids on militants’ camps (disputed – see next item).
- A “propaganda war” between the Nigerian government and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).
- Attempted bombings of oil pipelines in Delta State.
- Threats by MEND against the oil industry in Nigeria.
Significantly, not all of the violence is driven by MEND and the Nigerian military – other rebel groups operate in the Delta as well, such as the Niger Delta Liberation Force (NDLF). MEND itself is not a united group, and various sub-commanders seem to operate semi-independently. With so many actors intervening in the situation simultaneously, it is hard for anyone – journalists, the government, oil companies, even the militants – to get a clear picture of what is happening. The amnesty never received universal participation from militants in the Delta, and in the present chaos participation seems to be slipping. With everyone frustrated, lashing out in violence will come more easily, whether for a Nigerian military expected to establish security or for militants who are upset with a perceived lack of progress on their concerns. The amnesty could already be over, at least in a de facto sense.