News / Africa

Late Nigerian President Remembered for Niger Delta Amnesty

Nigerians mourning the death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua say one of his biggest accomplishments was negotiating an amnesty for gunmen in the oil-rich Niger Delta. VOA West Africa Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on how people in the Delta are remembering the late president, who died Wednesday at the age of 58.

Fighting in the Niger Delta was one of the biggest challenges confronting President Yar'Adua when he took office in 2007. Kidnapping and sabotage in the region were contributing to record low Nigerian oil exports.

But instead of sending in more troops as previous administrations had done, President Yar'Adua negotiated an amnesty deal with thousands of gunmen who laid down their weapons in exchange for a monthly stipend and promises of job opportunities.

"This amnesty that he carried out, that he approved brought peace to the Niger Delta," said Attorney Simeon Efenudu, a former secretary to the Delta State governor.

Efenudu says the amnesty gives officials time to make good on promises to better develop the region, which local activists say the federal government has neglected - taking the Delta's oil but not reinvesting in its people.

Human rights activist Joseph Adekpe says President Yar'Adua's death is a great loss to the people of the Niger Delta.

"There has been no leader who has been able to bring such peace to that area. What we have been used to is the use of blackmail and the use of violence to bring peace," he said. "He was able to bring out the hardliners and the freedom fighters from the creeks to submit their arms. That is no small measure."

Adekpe says Mr. Yar'Adua's commitment to electoral reform has given people of the Delta more confidence that next year's vote will be fairer than the 2007 election.

"He is a man of peace and he is a man of honesty. He is man of his word. He was the first man to accept that the election that brought him to power was fraudulent," continued Adekpe. "I don't think of any leader who has come out so boldly. And he initiated these electoral reforms."

Adekpe says Nigeria will benefit from more leaders with Mr. Yar'Adua's personal integrity.

"He declared his assets before he got there. He is the first man to have done that. If other leaders could do that as well, I believe the wealth of this nation would have been used for the people," he said.

Attorney Efenudu says Mr. Yar'Adua's humility is a lesson for all Nigerians.

"He wants simplicity in government life without ostentatious living," added Efenudu. "He wants Nigerians to be free and work everywhere in Nigeria."

Gabriel Osekene, a former ruling-party ward chairman for Delta State, says President Yar'Adua's judicial reforms made Nigerian society more just.

"He has sanitized the system in such a way that a common man can easily walk in and sue for his or her right," he said. "Formerly you can not sue an incumbent governor. True. But this man came and made the judicial system an independent system."

President Yar'Adua's prolonged medical absence slowed the momentum of his Niger Delta amnesty program. Nigeria's new president Goodluck Jonathan says he is committed to reviving that plan to better develop the region and ensure that former gunmen are properly reintegrated into society.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs