News / Africa

Does Nigeria Need Niger-Delta Style Amnesty for Boko Haram?

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, (File).
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, (File).

In Nigeria, a presidential committee on terrorist attacks says the government should consider offering an amnesty to Islamist militants in the north similar to an amnesty ended separate violence in the oil-rich south. 

Former militants in the Niger Delta swear allegiance to the federal government at the close of a retraining program that ended years of violence in the south.

Sabotage and attacks by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta cut Nigerian oil production by one-quarter in 2008. The government of then-president Umaru Musa Yar'Adua negotiated an amnesty for fighters who turned in their weapons and joined camps where they were given a stipend and job training.

Instrumental in that deal was Yar'Adua's vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the Niger Delta.  The amnesty's success was central to this year's presidential campaign by Jonathan, who now faces his administration's biggest security challenge: Islamist militants from Boko Haram.

Security officials say the group is responsible for coordinated attacks on police stations, churches and an army base in small towns across northern Nigeria, earlier this month, that killed more than 100 people.

Boko Haram says it is fighting for the establishment of a separate Sharia-led nation in northern Nigeria and recognizes neither the constitution nor President Jonathan's election.

The president named a committee to consider opening talks with the group.  Among its recommendations is an amnesty for Boko Haram militants who renounce violence and give up their guns.

Borno State Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume was on that committee. “We made some far-reaching and strong recommendations which we feel, if implemented, will go a long way to solving the problem.," he said. "Throughout our committee work and our interaction with various stakeholders we discovered, one, that dialogue in this case is very necessary.”

So how might a Niger-Delta-style amnesty work for Boko Haram?

Niger Delta attorney Ignatius Onwuemele says the situations are entirely different. “Boko Haram is quite different because they are an amorphous group. They are faceless. Who are you going to discuss with? Because in terms of Niger Delta militants, the government was able to negotiate with a group, at least an identifiable group. But these ones you can't identify them,” he stated.

Edward Oforomeh is a retired police officer in the Delta State city of Warri. He says granting amnesty to Boko Haram would be far more complicated than the Niger Delta because one of Boko Haram's principles is a rejection of Western education.

“A person who does not believe in Western education, if you want to grant him amnesty, what do you give him? Are you going to build more mosques for him? How do you train him?” Oforomeh asked.

Niger Delta militants fought for greater investment and environmental responsibility in the oil producing region. Oforomeh says most Nigerians do not know what Boko Haram wants. “They should come out, dialogue with them, discuss with them because everybody is now living in fear. Everyone is living in fear. You don't know who is next. Dialogue with them so that we know their demands and see if they will be able to meet those demands,” he noted.

Attorney Onwuemele says the desperation of Niger Delta militants and Boko Haram fighters are both driven by underlying social weakness in Nigeria that cannot be solved by amnesties alone. "The whole things is a fallout of the societal foibles of unemployment, corruption, the infrastructural decay.  We have to checkmate [overcome] this issue of unemployment," he said. "And this issue of decay of our educational system, the decay in the health sector.”

President Jonathan says Nigeria's character is being tested by Boko Haram's “unnecessary killing and destruction.” Moving away from recommendations of an amnesty and dialogue with the group, the president says Nigeria's military is taking a “rapid and robust” approach to “fight and defeat that evil.”

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs