There is an air of doubt clouding the Niger Delta as the promised education and jobs to the rebel militias who disarmed have not been kept by the Nigerian government, as the postulated dead-line expires.
The disarmed rebels were due to report to the proposed government rehabilitation camps on Wednesday, November 11. Eyewitness reports claim that some of the ex-militiamen had reported to camp centers in Rivers and Delta States – but there is no training happening at the centers; however the former fighters were seen playing football in the camps.
According to reports, militant leaders are now voicing frustration, saying there is no clarity from the government about the way forward. The militants told local reporters that they have carried out their side of the bargain – and they now want to see educational programs set up and campus leadership in place.
Godwin Abbe, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Defense has moved to assure Nigerians that the government has not forgotten its promises, but there were still many details to be worked out. The spokesperson admitted that the rehabilitation exercise was a slow process, and he could give no date by when the camps would be ready; however, they would be ready.
What next after thousands of rebels stacked rocket-propelled grenades, guns, explosives, ammunition and even gunboats in public, the average Nigerian would ask.
“We must give peace a chance,” is the slogan one commonly hears in the Niger Delta today. Tired of war and destruction, the inhabitants of the Niger Delta have welcomed the decommissioning and peace talks in the country’s oil-producing area. But like militant leader Farah Dagogo once said it is now up to the Nigerian government: “There are still thousands of people willing to continue fighting in the creeks and only the actions of the government can win over our brothers still bent on fighting.”
Some analyst say that the rebels have certainly not given up their entire arsenals – but the quantities of weapons dumped are significant, raising hopes of an end to the turbulence which has severely curtailed oil output for one of the world’s biggest exporters.
The ex-militants are observing how the Nigerian government is handling the peace process. There are no neutral observers collating the serial numbers of guns, for example, or formally witnessing weapons being put beyond use, in its place, that job is being done by officials in local government.
Despite the concerns being raised at the lack of neutral observers and delayed commencements of rehabilitation programs, Timi Alaibe, the presidential adviser on the amnesty belives there are no cause of alarms.
“We have our own way of doing things here. As to whether we have the international standards for collection for those arms, we don’t do them here. We don’t know about them. Those weapons will not find their way back. The Nigerian military have the structures in place to destroy them. The military are taking them back. You saw them, that’s transparency,” Timi Alaibe, was quoted as saying.
However the fact remains that the thousands of young men, accustomed to life as guerrilla fighters, are effectively unemployed. They have lived in militant camps, stealing massive amounts of crude oil, carrying out kidnappings, and blowing up oil pipelines. What happens to these men now is crucial to the future of the Delta.
In October, there were street protests in Yenagoa, in Bayelsa State, by youths angry at not receiving money they had been promised in return for dumping their guns. The Nigerian government promised to take these young men and rehabilitate them back into civil society – sponsoring them through education to learn new skills or trades. But if the promises of a better future are broken, it is likely they will return to violence.
“They, the government, they have every power. Let them do as they say. If they don’t? Then, I will bust pipelines again. That is the truth,” Bonny Gaeei, a former rebel leader warned.