On 5 February, a group identifying itself as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), claimed responsibility for an attack on an oil pipeline owned by the Italian firm, Agip (Eni), in Bayelsa State. Witnesses had reported a fire on the company’s Nembe-Brass pipeline late the previous day.
In a statement sent to the media, the group said: “On Saturday, the 4th of February at 1930hrs, fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) attacked and destroyed the Agip (ENI) trunk line at Brass in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria”.
The statement added that: “This relatively insignificant attack is a reminder of our presence in the creeks of the Niger Delta and a sign of things to come”.
MEND was the main militant group in the Niger Delta and responsible for years of attacks on the oil industry. However, following the Federal Government’s offer of amnesty in 2009, virtually all of its known commanders and thousands of its fighters dropped their arms and joined the government’s re-orientation and rehabilitation programmes, which also guaranteed them monthly stipends from the government. Several thousands have been enrolled in vocational and academic training courses, in Nigeria and abroad.
MEND purportedly sent several threats to the media in 2010 and 2011, but the threatened attacks never materialized. Oil industry sources said most of the recent damage to oil infrastructure in the region had been caused by gangs stealing oil, rather than insurgent militants. Security sources add that these gangs lack the capacity to cause the level of damage and disruption that was seen in early 2011, when attacks slashed the country’s oil production by more than 50 per cent.
The military Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta said: “JTF advices Niger Deltans to be mindful of people who are out to swindle them by wrongfully appropriating the identity of the erstwhile leadership of MEND to curry sympathy for their selfish and criminal interests”.
On 8 December, hundreds of ex-militants from the Niger Delta, who were heading to Abuja at night, with the intention of staging a surprise dawn protest in the Federal capital, were stopped by military and police personnel near Lokoja in Kogi State.
The group, whose leader identified himself as ‘General’ Ramsey, said it was on its way to Abuja to protest the Federal Government’s implementation of the amnesty programme. The ex-militants’ convoy and their blockage of all vehicular traffic on the Lokoja-Abuja Highway, caused a traffic gridlock for over eight hours, before a combined team of Army and Police personnel cleared the road for thousands of stranded travellers to continue their journeys.
Explaining the basis of their protest, Ramsey alleged that some of the ex-militants had been denied participation in the Federal Government’s Amnesty programme. He further claimed that others had graduated from the demobilization/re-orientation camp in Obubra in December 2010, but that till date, they had neither been paid nor ‘settled.’ He said they were appealing to the Federal Government to address their grievances, so that they would not have to go back to the creeks to resume trouble.
Ramsey said: “Now, we are giving four days ultimatum to the Federal Government to fulfil its side of the bargain. Our boys are angry, and they want to go back to the creeks and we are tired of holding them back”.
He also denied any responsibility for the chaotic traffic situation and the distress caused to thousands of travellers. He said his convoy did not obstruct traffic, but was blocked by the security men. He said: “The police intercepted us at about 4 am and asked us to go back to where we were coming from. They said our convoy was too long to go to Abuja for any protest. We did not block the road; it was the police that blocked the road and prevented travellers from moving freely on the road. We are not armed”.
The Commissioner of Police for Kogi State, Mr. Amana Abakasaga, said: “The police intercepted the militants…They were too many and we considered the security implications of allowing them to reach Abuja”.
In Abuja, the Special Adviser to the President on the Niger Delta and Chief Executive of the Amnesty Office, Hon Kingsley Kuku, condemned the action of the youths. At a media briefing, Kuku clarified that even if these youths were genuinely ex-militants, they did not accept the amnesty offer before it closed on 4 October 2009. He said as things stand, only President Goodluck Jonathan can order their admission to the programme. Said Kuku: “Until he does so, the amnesty programme cannot include them”.
On 5 December, the State Security Service (SSS) paraded an ex-militant arrested in connection with the kidnap of King Godwin Igodo, the paramount ruler of Atissa clan and a first class traditional ruler in Bayelsa State.
The monarch was abducted by three armed men at his Ogbogoro community home on 1 September. His abductors subsequently took him to a hide-out in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State. While he was in captivity, his kidnappers extracted GSM recharge credit totalling N150,000 from his family. They eventually released him at the Abonema River on 27 September, after his family had paid a ransom of N12.5 million.
Mr Didacus Egbeji, an Assistant Director of the SSS, said the suspect, 24-year-old Promise Adegbe, hails from Olodo compound, Azuzuama Community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Formerly in the camp of militant leader Young Shall Grow, Adegbe signed up for the Federal Government’s amnesty programme and underwent training at the ex-militant’s camp in Obubra, preparatory to his rehabilitation and reintegration into the society.
Adegbe claimed he had never participated in any kidnap operation before, but that he was lured into King Igodo’s case by his friend Mikel. He said he was not part of the team that abducted the King from his community but joined them in Port Harcourt, six days later. He further confessed that out of the N12.5 million ransom paid by the King’s family, he had already been paid N50,000 and was about to collect the balance when he was arrested.
The SSS said others who participated in the kidnap include one Mikel, Osuo and Kingdom, who are still at large. It said it had completed its investigations and that Adegbe would be arraigned in a High Court in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on 6 December.
On 22 July, the the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, reported that the Federal Govenment had, thus far, sent 1,019 Niger Delta ex-militants on academic and skill acquisition courses abroad, since the commencement of its post-amnesty programme over a year ago.
The very first set of ex-militants to be enrolled on vocational training courses were posted to centres within Nigeria on 23 August 2010. Thereafter, on 8 December 2010, the Presidential Amnesty Office sent off the first set of trainees that went abroad, comprising five youths enrolled for vocational courses in South Africa.
Speaking in Lagos, at a pre-departure orientation programme organised for 50 former militants heading to training courses in Sri Lanka, Hon. Kuku said that at present, groups of youth from the Niger Delta, are undergoing training in the U.S., South Africa, Malaysia, Russia, Poland, India, Ghana and the Philippines.
Kuku said another 3,112 were also undergoing skill acquisition training courses at different centres within the country.
He said the government will continue the placement and sponsorship of the fomer militants in training programmes, within the country and abroad, until all the over 26,000 of them who keyed into the government’s amnesty programme are trained for productive endeavours.
He said the government’s sponsorship of youths through these programmes was to prepare them for challenges of developing the region, and contributing to the overall development of Nigeria.
On 22 July, the Federal Government sent off another batch of 50 Niger Delta ex-militants to Sri Lanka for training in deep-sea diving, underwater welding and boat building.
Speaking in Lagos, at the send-forth for the departing trainees officially addressed as delegates, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, said they were heading to the Topher Zhang Vocational Institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for a six-months training programme. He said they would be given international certification at the end of the course, qualifying them to work anywhere in the world.
Kuku, who was represented by Dr. Ferdinand Ikwang, urged the delegates to make the best of the programme in order to achieve their personal goals as well as those of the Federal Government.
The Presidential Adviser also indicated that the government was already arranging to ensure that they are employed as soon as they complete their training. He added that government may also empower those with entrepreneurial skills to start up their own businesses in order to employ other Nigerian youths.
The Chief Security Adviser of the Amnesty Office, Lt Col Adewale Adekoya, also warned the delegates against any unruly or fraudulent acts, saying the government would withdraw, and if necessary prosecute, any of them who misbehaved while on the course.
On 7 July, former President Olusegun Obasanjo urged the Federal Government to seek more information on, and a better understanding of, the activities of the militant Islamist group commonly known as Boko Haram, in order to address the challenge posed by the group, effectively.
Speaking with newsmen at his residence in Abeokuta, capital of Ogun State, after receiving an award as Grand Peace Legend from the African Peace Foundation, Obasanjo said the government needs more information on the activities of the sect, especially the motive behind its actions, as well as its sponsors, before it could begin to respond to the group constructively.
He said: “I believe a group of people acting strangely when they are not insane must have their reasons. I believe these people are not insane and so there must be reasons for their actions. Even though you may not necessarily agree with their reasons, but we must try and find out why they are doing what they are doing, those behind them both internally and externally.
“We must not take this for granted, as the lives of majority of Nigerians are at risk. We need information to tackle the Boko Haram issue. There is so much to know and so much to find out about them. If there is the need to deal with them through the stick and carrot approach, we must be able to know what should be the ‘stick’ and what should be the ‘carrot’”.
Asked whether members of the group should be granted amnesty, as the Federal Government did with Niger Delta militants in 2009 and as the new Borno State governor Kashim Shettima is currently advocating, Obasanjo urged caution, warning against possible abuse of the amnesty principle.
On 19 June, a group of youths from the northern states, under the umbrella of the Arewa Youth Forum (AYF), called on President Goodluck Jonathan to grant amnesty to members of the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram, as a means of ending the reign of terror being propagated by the group.
In a communiqué issued by its National Chairman, Alhaji Gambo Gunjugu, at the end of an emergency meeting, the group appealed to the Federal Government to dialogue with the sect and offer its members an amnesty programme similar to that which it applied in ending the insurgency in the Niger Delta in 2009.
The group said it condemned all acts of terrorism “in the strongest terms” and regretted that the 16 June attack on the police headquarters in Abuja could discourage investors from coming into the country. However, it also said it could not close its eyes “hypocritically” to the fact that the alleged extrajudicial executions in Borno State during the arrest of the Boko Haram leader and others in 2009, are “among the factors fuelling the Boko Haram attacks in the country’’.
The AYF submitted that: ‘’Since the use of force appears not to be yielding the desired result in fighting the terrorist group, now is the right time for the authorities concerned to co-opt respected community and religious leaders in order to broker peace with the aggrieved sect’’. The group also appealed to the leaders of the sect to embrace dialogue with the government.
However, the AYF also called on the government to intensify efforts at addressing the high level of unemployment across the country, as a matter of urgency.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), a statement issued in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, by the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Malam Lawal Abdullahi, stated as follows:
“We wish to inform the public that we have received an intelligence report on possible attacks. Some fundamentalists have decided to launch an attack on the good people of Borno State. The group and other social miscreants have decided to team up with some politicians to terrorise the good people of the state, using the leadership of a dangerous sect from neighbouring Yobe State’’.
While acknowledging the police alert as a proactive measure towards pre-empting possible violence, some Maiduguri residents say they do not fully understand why the Police issued this particular statement, considering that Boko Haram’s attacks have become almost a daily occurrence in the city. They also say the alert would have been more helpful, if it had provided some indication of when, where or how the group might strike, so that citizens can take more meaningful precautions.
Those details were probably not necessary as the police statement said the Police Command had already mapped out strategies to counter any attacks. It said: “The Command has set modalities and mechanisms in motion to track down these miscreants for immediate arrest and prosecution’’.
Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group, launched a major uprising in Borno and Bauchi States in 2009, but was overrun by government security forces, with more than 800 persons killed. Since mid-2010, it has carried out the serial assassination of policemen and soldiers, moderate Islamic clerics, local politicians and Christian preachers. It has also bombed several police stations and other government buildings mostly in Maiduguri, but also in other towns in Borno State and beyond.
In September 2010, it stormed a prison in Bauchi, freeing over 700 inmates, many of whom were its members awaiting trial over previous acts of violence. In December 2010, it claimed responsibility for a Christmas Eve bombing of Jos, capital of Plateau State, in which scores of people were killed. In January 2011, it claimed responsibility for assassination of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) governorship candidate, Modu Fannami Gubio, in Maiduguri. In its most recent assault on 27 May, about 70 members of the group attacked a police station/barracks and a bank in Damboa, about 80km south of Maiduguri, killing at least 12 people.
Although its activities have been confined largely to the north-eastern zone of the country, the group says it is fighting for the installation of an Islamic regime under Sharia law nationwide. Its extremist views and violent tactics are not shared by most other Muslims, even in the majority-Muslim north of the country. The new governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, is proposing an amnesty for the group and a negotiated response to its demands and grievances, but Boko Haram spokesmen have thus far dismissed that offer.
On 25 May, the Nigerian Army, following a directive by President Goodluck Jonathan, began demolishing a large stockpile of arms and explosives which Niger Delta militants had submitted to the Federal Government after accepting the amnesty that was offered to them in 2009.
Briefing journalists on the exercise which took place at 82 Base Ammunition Depot Demolition ground at Lokpanta, a boundary town between Enugu and Abia States, the General Officer Commanding 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Sarkin Yakin Bello, explained that a total of 1,798 riffles, 1,981 guns of various types, 70 RPGs, 159 pistols, 1 Spear and 6 cannons were handed over to 82 Division by the Niger Delta Amnesty Committee. He said Army Headquarters in Abuja subsequently authorised the destruction and demolition of the arms and ammunition.
Speaking on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta and Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, said the destruction of the weapons marked the end of militant agitation in the Niger Delta. He said, henceforth, anyone who takes up arms as an instrument of agitation, will be regarded as bearing “crime arms”.
The Presidential Adviser said the destruction of the arms and ammunition was not only to underline the success of the federal government’s amnesty programme but also to dispose of instruments that could become a destabilising influence in the country.
Hon Kuku paid tribute to late President Umaru Yar’Adua for initiating the amnesty programme. He said the continued implementation of the programme up to the public destruction of the surrendered weapons attests to President Jonathan’s commitment to achieving lasting peace and security in the Niger Delta. He also noted that among the many gains of the amnesty programme, Nigeria’s crude petroleum production which sank as low as 700,000 barrels per day at the height of the delta insurgency, has since recovered to about 2.3 million barrels per day.
It will be recalled that the late President Yar’Adua had, on 25 June 2009, proclaimed unconditional amnesty for thousands of militants who had been fighting for economic, environmental and political rights in the Niger Delta. The amnesty programme provided that any militants who show willingness and readiness to surrender their arms, unconditionally renounce militancy and sign an undertaking to that effect, would be free from prosecution but rather benefit from programmes designed to facilitate their rehabilitation and reintegration into the normal society.
By 4 October 2009, which was the government’s deadline for the militants to disarm, 20,192 of the youths had accepted the amnesty. About seven months later, another 6,126 youths signed up and were included in the programme, following President Jonathan’s approval.
Niger Delta: Amnesty Office suspends camp manager over unfounded statements against Bayelsa Governor
On 19 May, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, sent a senior staff of the Presidential Amnesty Programme’s Demobilisation Camp in Obubra, Mr Ekpein Appah, on indefinite suspension, following an unfounded media outburst against the Bayelsa State governor, Chief Timipre Sylva.
In a statement issued in Abuja by the Head of Media and Communications of the Presidential Amnesty Office, Mr. Henry Ugbolue, the Special Adviser noted that Appah had granted a newspaper interview accusing Governor Sylva of harbouring the fugitive militant leader, John Togo. It also noted that in the said publication, Appah had challenged the Bayelsa State governor to produce the fugitive, whom he claimed had taken up residence in Bayelsa State Government House, Yenagoa.
The statement frowned at the fact that Appah, in the newspaper interview, had been identified as the Administrator of the Amnesty Programme’s Demobilisation Camp in Obubra and clarified that he (Appah) was “just one of the several camp managers”. It also clarified that Appah “neither sought nor received the permission of the Special Adviser or the Camp Commandant” to grant the offensive interview to any newspaper, and therefore acted and spoke for himself and not for the Amnesty Office.
It further said that the Presidential Adviser, Hon Kuku, “found the comments that the governor, who is a critical stakeholder of the amnesty programme, was shielding former militant leader, John Togo, at Government House, Yenagoa, distasteful”. It said Mr Kuku views Appah’s entire interview as a calculated attempt to bring the Amnesty Programme to disrepute and pitch the Amnesty Office against one of its critical stakeholders, in the person of the Bayelsa State governor.
The statement therefore concluded that: “Owing to this fundamental breach of the rules of his engagement as one of the Programme’s Camp Managers, Mr. Appah has since been placed on indefinite suspension by Hon. Kingsley Kuku”.
It will be recalled that the Bayelsa State Government had earlier reacted to Appah’s allegations. On 18 May, Sylva’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Doifie Ola, had dismissed the allegations as “irresponsible” and “laughable”.