News / Africa

Nigerians Debate Amnesty for Boko Haram

Ex-militants pose for a group photograph in Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta region, Nigeria, April 3, 2011.Ex-militants pose for a group photograph in Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta region, Nigeria, April 3, 2011.
x
Ex-militants pose for a group photograph in Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta region, Nigeria, April 3, 2011.
Ex-militants pose for a group photograph in Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta region, Nigeria, April 3, 2011.
Heather Murdock
As Nigerians debate the possibility of granting amnesty to militants in Nigeria’s north, the country marks the fourth anniversary of its amnesty program for militants in the South. Some former militants in the Niger Delta region are opening small businesses while others are bitterly disappointed, saying without change, renewed violence is inevitable.
 
On some Nigerian newspaper websites, there are polls asking users if they believe the government should offer amnesty to Boko Haram militants, a group blamed for thousands of deaths in the past four years. On one such website, the largest voter block was for this option: “No, they have killed innocents and should be brought to book.”  

For many Nigerians, though, the idea of peace through amnesty has been tested at least somewhat successfully in the oil-rich southern Niger Delta, where militants waged war against the government and oil companies for several years.

Niger Delta program

Analysts are quick to point out that the conflict in the Niger Delta was very different from the current Boko Haram conflict. Boko Haram is a shadowy militant group that says it’s fighting for Islamic law and to free its imprisoned members. The Niger Delta militancy was an offshoot of a popular movement calling for the equitable distribution of oil wealth.  

In the Niger Delta, however, some former militants say the amnesty program is preventing another uprising.
 
Epipade Kemepade, 30, used to be in charge of dispatching weapons among his fellow militants, or “freedom fighters” as they called themselves. In 2009, along with tens of thousands of other young men, he turned in his gun in exchange for the promise of job training and slightly more than $400 a month.
 
Now, he’s a trained welder and has his own shop. He also is among 300 former militants who were promised new equipment a month ago to grow their businesses, but it hasn’t yet arrived.
 
On the other hand, other former militants say Kemepade is the exception and most of the “boys” - as they are known locally - are returning from training to find no jobs and no capital to start a business.  

Remaining issues

Charles Efenudu said that after he turned in his weapons he was trained in business and was told he could open a small grocery store when he completed the course. That was two years ago, and he continues to trudge out to the cassava fields, making barely enough money to survive.
 
“I’m trying to work on a farm to succeed by myself because the federal government is not doing any good about our training. So we just sit at home doing nothing,” said Efenudu.

Perye Williams is a lawyer and an activist in Warri, an oil town that is technically at peace, but tensions and crime levels are noticeably high. He said the amnesty program by nature doesn’t address the underlying causes of the conflict, which echo what some say are the underlying causes of the Boko Haram conflict in the north: extreme poverty, underdevelopment, lack of jobs and schools, and the general feeling that the government doesn’t care to fix any of it.
 
He said the amnesty program plays favorites and ultimately won’t maintain the peace.
 
“It still boils down to the Nigerian system of nepotism and favoritism. Provide good roads. Provide electricity. Provide viable water. Provide hospitals in these communities and every other thing will be taken care of by the people,” said Williams.

In the north, Boko Haram members have flatly rejected the idea of accepting amnesty, saying the government should be asking for amnesty from them.  

Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost-Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
May 18, 2013 10:13 AM
Nigeria is always getting it wrong. Amnesty: is it for ghosts? There is no need to pamper a criminal. Amnesty to Niger Delta militants came because the people were human beings with tenable targets. Boko haram is a ghost with untenable targets - unless those supporting amnesty for it give tacit support to the division of the country. It is this ambiguity in what the politicians want that made the president announce a partial state of emergency in three states.The right thing should have been a total state of emergency setting aside everything devoid of a police military state. That would have made the governors sit up if they know that their jobs are on the line for insecurity in their areas of jurisdiction. A partial state of emergency is bound to achieve little especially with reports of politicians' involvement in the boko haram funding and protection - even to the point some boko haram operatives have been found in homes of former and serving governors and legislators. And in a country where the president can only give classroom instructions without bite, a total state of emergency would have been an assurance of hope for the future that after all the president can still do something to safeguard the citizenry. But with the politicians in power calling the shots, the military will achieve very little when all they have to do is chase the shadows while the politicians and their boko haram supporters only need to change their strategy. We live to see how well this spineless approach to settling the terrorist situation will go to restore hope to the Nigerians living in those areas so affected.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More