Since 2009 when the Nigerian government declared a Presidential Amnesty for militants in the restive oil-producing Niger Delta, the fragile peace in the region has faced several challenges. The situation is not unconnected to the continued environmental degradation resulting from the operations of the oil industry, weak implementation of policies and developmental projects in the region by the federal and state governments, and the excesses of security agencies.
These deficits in the handling of the Niger Delta question by the Nigerian State have continued to fan the embers of militancy, growing inequality and poverty, heightened insecurity and thus, challenged the prospects for sustainable peace in the troubled region. The continued crisis has contributed to the re-emergence of old local actors and the emergence of new ones in the conflict landscape in the region. The situation in the Niger Delta informs one of the pertinent questions underpinning this special issue of Kujenga Amani: Can there ever be sustainable peace in the region? If so how can it be achieved in the face of the deficits and contradictions within the peacebuilding process? What are the implications of the ongoing crisis and the prospects for the future? These and many other issues were the focus of an APN panel convened at the recent J.P. Clark International Conference at the University of Lagos in Nigeria to explore the challenge of peacebuilding in the Niger Delta. The essays in this special issue are based on presentations by APN Alumni at the special panel.
Abosede Babatunde’s essay on “Women, Petro-Insurgency, and Peacebuilding in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region” examines the various roles played by women in the insurgency and how these have impacted peacebuilding in the oil-rich region. She shows how decades of grievances against exploitation, pollution, and marginalization have shaped women’s identities not only as victims but as agential actors in the emerging forms of opportunistic engagement with oil companies and the government, including militant politics. She argues that the complex roles of women actors may further complicate the oil conflict, and likely pose specific challenges in the future for peacebuilding in the Niger Delta. In this regard, she suggests that peacebuilding policies and practices in the Niger Delta be gender-sensitive, inclusive, participatory, and equitable so that the costly conflicts that have ravaged the region can be resolved.
The second essay, by Oluwatoyin Oluwaniyi, is titled “Post-Conflict Peacebuilding Process and Environmental Governance: Implications for Peace and Security in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region.” Oluwaniyi explores how the nature of environmental governance has impacted the post-conflict peacebuilding project, particularly the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP). She argues that the inability of the PAP—as well as regulatory agencies and oil companies—to prevent oil pollution and environmental degradation and adequately address demands for environmental justice continues to pose a threat to attempts to build peace in the Niger Delta. The essay calls for greater attention to be paid to inclusive forms of environmental governance that address the roots of environmental grievances and conflict as an important step towards conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
Kialee Nyiayaana’s contribution titled “The State and the Environmental Clean-up in Ogoni: Building Peace or the Continuation of Oil Politics in the Niger Delta?” analyzes the politics underpinning the environmental clean-up in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta. The essay contends that while the Nigerian state sees the Ogoni clean-up project primarily as a technical process in the remediation and restoration of the damaged Ogoni environment, Ogoni people hold a different view that goes beyond technical solutions to ecological devastation and their quest for a better life hinged on access to the benefits of oil produced from their land. For them, it is a matter of justice, compensation for a litany of environmental injustices and damage to their land, and survival. The different perspectives on environmental clean-up have deepened existing apathy and apprehensions within Ogoni communities and worsened tensions occasioned by, on the one hand, the competing claims between the state and the Ogoni to oil ownership, and on the other, the emerging forms of oil-based militancy in the region. The essay concludes that the contestations over the clean-up reflect the continuation of oil politics in the Niger Delta, and notes that the state of affairs will continue to pose a threat to sustainable peacebuilding in the region for some time to come.
In seeking to provide an answer to the question on whether there can ever be peace in the Niger Delta all the contributions to this special issue share the view that sustainable peacebuilding is achievable in the oil-producing region if certain conditions are met. The prospects of these conditions being met will ultimately depend on the power relations between the Nigerian state and the people of the region and how these reflect on the nature of environmental governance, justice, and inclusive, equitable and sustainable forms of people-centered development.
The articles in this special issue are:
- “Women, Petro-Insurgency, and Peacebuilding in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region” by Abosede Babatunde
- “Post-Conflict Peacebuilding Process and Environmental Governance: Implications for Peace and Security in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region” by Oluwatoyin Oluwaniyi
- “The State and the Environmental Clean-up in Ogoni: Building Peace or the Continuation of Oil Politics in the Niger Delta?” by Kialee Nyiayaana