The Nigerian government’s 2009 amnesty of militants in the Niger Delta dramatically reduced the violence that had plagued the region and restored preinsurgency levels of oil production. However, many of the problems that sparked violent confrontations remain unaddressed. This new Special Report draws on the views of many sectors of Nigerian society to gauge whether peace on the delta can be sustained.

Summary

  • The Niger Delta has now enjoyed four years of relative calm. However, there is a significant chance the region could see renewed violent conflict in the next one to two years.
  • Dividends from a 2009 amnesty for local militants are real and substantial. They include dramatically improved oil production and revenues, fewer deaths and kidnappings, more relaxed travel restrictions, better elections, and job placement for some ex-fighters.
  • Critics of the amnesty claim the program fails to treat the root causes of conflict, is corrupt and unsustainable, and promotes warlordism and the spread of organized crime, among other things.These criticisms are not without basis, but they often lack context and balance.
  • Major conflict drivers in the delta are still in place, and no long-term peace plan exists. The coming period likely will bring strong flash points and triggers, particularly around the 2015 presidential and gubernatorial elections.
  • Wavering leadership on security, the closedown of the amnesty program in 2015, decreased support for President Goodluck Jonathan’s candidacy, and close electoral results could all lead to violence in the delta.
  •  It is possible nonetheless that the election season will pass without a major, prolonged return to violence in the Niger Delta. Nigeria’s fractured opposition parties may fail to produce a consensus candidate, and the delta is likely to vote overwhelmingly for President Jonathan.
  • The role played by distributions of oil wealth is a particular wild card. It is also still very much unclear how far conflict around the 2015 elections will reflect deeper sociopolitical divisions in Nigeria, or how deep such divisions run.
  • This report finds only limited consensus on how any future violence will look. A majority of sources agreed only on a few likely trends—for instance, an increase in kidnappings and the spread of armed attacks outside the Niger Delta.

About the Report

Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta region has stayed relatively calm for four years, but how stable is the peace? Based on interviews with a wide range of stakeholders, this report assesses the 2009 federal amnesty program for local militants, a central part of the Nigerian government’s security policy in the region. It also analyzes possible future conflict triggers and trends for the delta. The report finds that there is limited consensus on the prospect and scope of future violence in Nigeria, particularly with regard to the upcoming 2015 presidential elections. The report is part of the United States Institute of Peace’s long-standing support for conflict analysis and resolution initiatives in the Niger Delta.

About the Author

Aaron Sayne is the principal of 104 Consulting. He advises governments and private investors on energy, security, and anticorruption issues, foremost in Nigeria.

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