PROCLAMATION OF AMNESTY
The presidential Amnesty Programme commenced on Thursday, July 11, 2009 when a proclamation of amnesty for Niger Delta militant who had engaged in the armed struggle for a better deal in the nation’s oil gains. In granting unconditional amnesty for the agitators, the late Yar’Adua opened a window for a period of 60 days for the agitators to lay down their arms in exchange for amnesty as a step towards redressing the adverse security situation in the oil rich Niger Delta region which had almost brought the nation’s economy to its knees. The measure was also aimed at stabilizing, consolidating and maintaining security in the region as a pre-requisite for promoting economic development. He was right on target.
Years later, precisely nine years of implementation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme [PAP], it’s indeed a new dawn with a bright future. Prior to the proclamation of amnesty when guns boomed in the creeks of the Niger Delta, Nigeria lost over one million barrels of crude oil per day [bpd] estimated to be about N8.7 billion [$58m] as at May 2009. This followed a drastic reduction of the daily crude oil production figure from 2.2 million bpd to an abysmal 700,000 bpd when the Niger Delta insurgency reached a boiling point in January 2009. The cut in oil production had earlier robbed the country of over $20 billion in 2008, just as the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas [NLNG] reportedly lost over $2 billion in 2009. The toll was not limited to the economy as over 1000 lives were said to have been lost in 2008 alone, while 128 persons were allegedly kidnapped within one year [January 2008 to January 2009].
As the crises raged, production and construction firms which were working in the area including Wilbros, Michelin, Julius Berger, as well as small and medium scale enterprises [SMEs] laid off their workers in the Niger Delta and pulled out of the region, a situation that led to the stalling of the East-West Road project for over two years. These had disastrous consequences on the nation and its citizens as several other multinational companies relocated not only from the area but also from Nigeria. The country lost billions of Naira that would have accrued from oil revenue to the Federation Account, even as oil and gas companies which remained in the region with a resolve to weather the storm were compelled to cough out a whopping $3 billion annually to secure their facilities and installations, as critical infrastructure, especially pipelines, became targets of serial attack. Again, this propelled the slamming of an outrageous $90 million p.a. premium Marine War Risk Insurance for cargo into Nigeria.
Against the backdrop of a vision to transform the ex-combatants from militancy to gainful employment and ultimately change agents, captains of the PAP adopted the United Nations [UN] –prescribed Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration [DDR] intervention model, but developed a home-grown process which has become a global reference point.
The initial disarmament and documentation process spanned a period of 60 days between August/October 2009, and involved all known militant groups in the Niger Delta, with 20,192; 6,166, and 3,642 ex-agitators disarmed in the first, second and final phases respectively, in an exercise which is arguably the most successful disarmament exercise in the history of DDR in Africa. The recovered arms and ammunition including explosives, light and heavy weapons, were publicly destroyed at a designated site at Lokpanta, Enugu State, on May 25, 2011.
Pursuant to its mandate, the Presidential Amnesty Programme entered the next phase of demobilization via engagement of the ex-agitators in a non-violence transformation training geared towards erasing their belief in violence and offering them nonviolence as a veritable alternative to achieving development and progress in the Niger Delta. The ex-agitators are currently in various stages of reintegration.
Remarkably, women were also involved in the process, with 822 of them participating in the Amnesty Programme. Interestingly, some of the women were at the demobilization camp with their children, just as there were a few child births during their participation in camp. But their attendance of the transformation camp was restricted to batches 1, 11 and 12, to allow for the kind of special attention required of their gender.
Nigeria’s record in speedy and successful implementation of the first and second phases of its DDR component of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, according to reports, triggered a global demand for transfer of such programmes from the United Nations and other international agencies to governments of participating nations.
The resultant effect of Nigeria’s success in the implementation of the amnesty programme is that besides the massive mop-up of weapons from over 20,192 ex-agitators, crime and criminality, especially kidnapping and oil bunkering has drastically reduced in the Niger Delta, and enthroned peace. In the same vein, youths are being empowered through techno-vocational training, employment, and offered higher education scholarship. There is an impressive reduction in oil pipeline vandalism, entrenchment of dialogue as a means of conflict resolution in oil producing communities; increased foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Niger Delta, and a steady leap in Nigeria’s foreign reserves as a result of increased oil and gas production. This is indicative of a successful implementation of the two key mandates of the Amnesty Programme which is to maintain peace and security as well as development of the Niger Delta region.
PAP AT A GLANCE
Caretaker Committee Hands Over to Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (Rtd), Interim Administrator
* Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua proclaimed a 60-day unconditional Amnesty for Niger Delta ex-agitators on June 25, 2009.
* The Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) was established on July 11, 2009 to stabilize, consolidate and sustain the security and fast-track Niger Delta development.
* The disarmament and documentation process spanned a period of 60 days between August and October 2009.
* 20, 192 ex-agitators were disarmed and captured in the first phase of the Amnesty Programme.
* 6, 166 ex-agitators were disarmed in the second phase.
* 3, 642 ex-agitators were disarmed in the third phase of the Programme, lauded as the most successful disarmament exercise in the history of DDR in Africa: a mixture of United Nations model and home grown strategy.
* Recovered arms and ammunition including explosives, light and heavy weapons, were publicly destroyed at a designated site at Lokpanta, Enugu State, on May 25, 2011.
* A total of 30, 000 ex-agitators are captured in the Presidential Amnesty Programme Database.
* Nigeria lost over one million barrels of crude oil per day (bpd) estimated to be about N8.7 billion ($58 million) as at May 2009.
* At the height of militancy in the Niger Delta in January 2009, Nigeria’s crude oil production reduced from 2.2 million bpd to 700,000 bpd.
* The cut in oil production robbed Nigeria of over $20 billion by 2008 just as the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) lost over $2 billion in 2009.
* 822 women are captured in the Amnesty Programme.