Maybe it’s time to finally address the injustices faced by the Niger Delta

Niger Delta militants

In a viral video posted by AIT on Twitter, a militia group from the Niger Delta known as the Supreme Egbesu Liberation Fighters can be heard highlighting their grievances around the under-development of their region, accusing the federal government of marginalising the Niger Delta and failing to deliver on the amnesty program.

They have also threatened to attack Lagos and Abuja. It’s not clear whether this militia is a splinter-group from the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the group that was offered amnesty by the administration of the then-president Umaru Yar’Adua in 2009, or a separate entity. Nonetheless, the resurfacing of a movement pointing out how the government, multinational oil companies, and other neoliberal players collude to exploit the Niger Delta’s resource of crude oil should be given a lot of attention.

Not only that, but also how it has led to environmental degradation. Oil spillage has polluted rivers, creeks, and farmlands, economically disenfranchising indigenes who once had their livelihoods from those sources. Carbon emissions as a consequence of Nigeria’s reliance on non-renewable energy like crude oil has disproportionately affected the region with the soot crisis.

The amnesty program, as we know it, was primarily for the Niger Delta uprising to cease fire on their activities, ranging from kidnap of foreign oil workers, vandalisation of refineries and so on. Also included was a process of disarmament (collection of weapons), demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration. Simply put, Niger Delta militias went into an agreement with the government in exchange for vocational training, jobs, compensation, and microcredit.

In retrospect, the program falls short due to its limited scope as it doesn’t check the environmentally damaging operations of foreign oil corporations, nor does it come with river restoration or plans to develop the Niger Delta with good roads, hospitals and other infrastructure. Indigenes are right to be disgruntled because, over the years, they haven’t benefited from their collective resource.

In an era where the government are often seen negotiating with bandits and terrorists in a bid towards peacekeeping and restoring stability, the return of Niger Delta freedom fighters presents an opportunity for the government to acknowledge where it has failed in amnesty deliverables, and expand it for the well-being of the region.

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