Nigeria: Rebel activities likely continue after Henry Okah’s release

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Rebel Kingpin of Nigeria’s Niger Delta Henry Okah has agreed to call off his rebellion against the Nigerian government and walk free. Henry Okah has been facing treason and gun-running charges.

Spokesperson of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta General Boyloaf, has said that if Henry Okah is set free, the organization would lay down its arms.

The presidential spokesman Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi said, “The president is delighted to hear that Mr Okah has accepted the amnesty offer. With his acceptance, he will be released when the formalities are concluded.”

This comes only a few months after Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua announced that his government is “working on terms for the granting of amnesty for those who are prepared to lay down their arms,”. He called the decision “new rules of engagement”.

Henry Okah is in custody facing trial after being arrested in Angola in 2007. He was later extradited to Nigeria, where he faces a 62-count charge of treason, treasonable felony, gun running, terrorism and illegal importation of arms, among others.

Reports claim that the release of Henry Okah was just one issue – and there were other issues to be settled in the region; details of the release still needed to be worked out. The government recently offered an amnesty to members of any militant group which laid down its weapons.

Early March, a criminal rehabilitation project set up by Rotimi Amaechi, the governor of Rivers state in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria recorded more than 3800 surrendered militants seeking rehabilitation and reformation.

But according to’s Patrick Johnsson, “oil related rebel activities have almost naturally become part of the local mindset (…) the Nigerian government has a lot of ground to cover to eliminate rebel activities”.

Other skeptics have said that the unrest in the Niger Delta is not just a political struggle, and so doubts arise whether the amnesty alone will be enough to halt opportunistic attacks, oil theft and kidnapping.

The Mend rebels have been fighting for an increased share of Nigeria’s vast oil wealth in the Niger Delta region, but have been engaged in kidnapping, oil theft, and vandalism.

The government’s amnesty offer is part of an effort to end years of rebel attacks on the Nigerian oil industry, which has seen a 25% drop in its profits in only three years.

“It will come as no surprise to see another militant group spring up from MEND after it halts its activities, simply because most of these young rebels don’t have anything else to do with their lives. Rebel activity is likely to continue if steps towards rehabilitation are not taken seriously by the government”, Johnsson continued.

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