Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua is this week expected to formally decree an amnesty for Niger Delta militants who would surrender their weapons and embrace peace.
Wednesday the president ordered the release of militant leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari. He was reportedly arrested Tuesday night on arrival from Germany where he had gone for medical check-up.
Asari was charged in 2005 with treason during the Obasanjo government, but the charges were later dropped to promote reconciliation.
Professor Kabiru Mato, head of the political science department at the University of Abuja, told VOA President Yar’Adua is trying to bring about reconciliation in the Niger Delta region.
“I think the president is only responding to the apparent realities in the Niger Delta. He seems to be rather elated for reasons which a lot of us would not understand on the acceptance of amnesty by some of the Niger Delta groups,” he said.
He said the government has yet to explain to Nigerians why Asari was arrested in the first place.
Mato said he doesn’t believe that the mere offer of amnesty and its acceptance by some groups would lead to the end of the conflict in the Niger Delta.
“From an honest perspective I do not think the quest for amnesty and the granting of amnesty on the part of government is in itself any panacea for any lasting peace in the region,” Mato said.
He said lasting peace can only come to the Niger Delta if the government addresses what he called the obvious problems of social backwardness, economic backwardness and marginalization which the people have been complaining about.
Mato said he is not sure how the president’s proposed amnesty will address what he called the problem of economic crimes in the Niger Delta.
“There’s a very serious problem of economic crimes which a lot of the elites in the region, in collaboration with perhaps some foreigners, are committing,” he said.
Mato said President Yar’Adua is expected to meet Thursday with state governors from the Niger Delta region along with military chiefs to discuss how to fast-track his peace-building process and the terms of the proposed amnesty.He said the president’s proposed amnesty would probably take effect after that meeting.