1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The Niger Delta region, also referred to as the South-South geo-political zone is made up of six states – Akwa Ibom, Delta, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, and Rivers States. It is a region made up of a number of ethnic nationalities mainly, Ijaw, Ekwere, Ibo, Efiks, Mbembe, Ejagham, Yakurr, to mention a few. This region with a population of 31 million people, is a vast coastal plain in the southernmost part of Nigeria, where one of West Africa‟s longest rivers empties into the Atlantic Ocean between the Bights of Benin and Biafra, in the Gulf of Guinea. It is situated within the wetland area of Nigeria with the most extensive freshwater swamp forest and rich biological diversity, and out of an area of about 70,000 square Kms, covered by the region, 36 Sq Kms alone is covered in marshland, creeks, tributaries and lagoons, therefore, making it the largest wetland in Africa and one of the largest in the world, while the rest is a lowland rainforest zone (Obi, 2010)
The thrust of this paper is not to give a historical account of the conflict in the Niger Delta but the amnesty initiative adopted in the region cannot be talked about devoid of the reason behind the need for the act. It should be noted that the conflict in the Niger delta region pre dates the colonial period, discovery of crude oil and the Nigerian independence. As a result of this, it isn‟t far-fetched to assert that the region had been laden with Militancy even before the discovery of crude oil at the Oloibiri in 1956.
Ayodele, (1999); Hargreaves, (1996); Tamuno, (1999), all traced the era of militancy in the Niger delta to the time of Jaja of Opobo, Ovonramwem N‟Ogbaisi of Benin establishing that the British interest in the Niger Delta or Oil Rivers goes back to 1851 earlier before the 1885 proclamation of the region as a British Protectorate. The militancy witnessed in this era was such that the british dominance and control of the palm oil trade was resisted by the Deltan Kings, although a futile effort because the British did dominate the oil trade without regard to the development of the region or its inhabitants.
The expectation and hope that came with the discovery of oil in the region was short-lived, when rather than provide development and improvement in the region it has brought about agony and penury to the people. This has led to the use of petitions, civil agitations and now militant agitations as a way through which the Niger Deltans have cried out their plight. The lack of attention from the government towards their plight led to a lot of actions, one of recountable measure was the creation of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) which was headed by Ken Saro-Wiwa who was an activist and this groups activities gave much leeway to the conflict as to them, it was a struggle and quest for self-determination.
A different era of militancy sprung up following the arrest and death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Other Ogoni 8, rather than be deterred this led to the emergence of various militant groups who saw the Ogoni 9 killings as an act of Martyrdom. These new groups all chose to live by the sword in a bid to achieve their ends and as such have taken up arms to drive their point. The blessings the discovery of oil was meant to bring has instead led to the pollution of the water and rivers through the exploration and exploitation of their lands, which has in turn has made their occupation of fishing and agriculture to become an almost impossibility with no possible solution in sight.