Nigeria: Ending Unrest In The Niger Delta
Starting from his 29 May 2007 inauguration, President Yar’Adua has responded to the Niger Delta’s conflicts with a more consultative, conciliatory approach than his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo.1 His government met an important militant demand, freeing prominent Ijaw personalities – Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta Peoples’ Volunteer Force (NDPVF), and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, ex-Bayelsa State governor.2 It also began dialogue with militant groups and ethnic organisations, established committees charged with facilitating peace and conflict resolution and signalled readiness to convene a Niger Delta summit. These initiatives have had some calming effects on the insurgency in the region but they have not yet addressed core grievances and demands – local control of oil and gas resources, greater political representation at the federal level, infrastructure development, economic empowerment and environmental degradation – which have fuelled militancy in the region. There have been delays in beginning implementation of a regional development plan and convening the promised summit. Inertia in translating intent into action and the arrest of a militant leader on gun-running charges in Angola in September provoked a faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to resume attacks on oil installations and abduction of industry personnel. Criminals masquerading as militants are beyond the Delta. This report examines the Yar’Adua government’s initiatives in the Delta, highlights the costs of the crisis and appraises the response to insecurity in the wider region as well as to the Port Harcourt troubles specifically. It analyses the major issues that need to be addressed urgently in order to end violence, launch regional development and deal with the root causes of the conflicts.