Ogoniland: Remediating a Troubled Region

Published August 10, 2017
By Partners for Peace, Fund for Peace, PIND
FFP Publication 501 01 1708
Report available in PDF and Flash formats
Ogoniland has long been an area symbolic in the minds of people both inside and outside of the Niger Delta for its struggle against environmental degradation caused by resource exploitation. In the early 1990s, the region came to international prominence after the death of environmental activist Kenule Saro-Wiwa. The struggle of Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists eventually led to the cessation of oil production activities in the area in 1993, but widespread environmental damage was already done. A United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) assessment on the impacts of decades of resource exploitation in Ogoniland, commissioned in 2006 by former President General Olusegun Obasanjo and released in 2011, has informed a wide scale government clean-up of the region. At the same time, Ogoniland has been beset by many of the same conflict dynamics that affect the wider Niger Delta; including cultism, militancy, the proliferation of weapons, intra- and intercommunal conflict, chieftaincy tussles, and widespread youth unemployment. The region has become highly polarized during recent election cycles, with politicians, militants and security figures recruiting cultists and restive youth to intimidate and coerce adversaries and opponents.
In recognition of the complex dynamics at play in the region and the need to restore security to the area to effectively address widespread environmental degradation, the Rivers State government announced a special amnesty programme for the area in March 2017. Following on from a 60-day demobilization effort that commenced in September 2016, the new amnesty programme is a fresh attempt to encourage current militants to disavow violence, lay down their weapons, and re-join society in a productive manner. While both the Clean-up Project and the renewed amnesty programme are an attempt to restore security and economic viability to Ogoniland, multiple overlapping and intertwined factors are still at play that could spell the success or failure of these efforts. The following brief examines those dynamics and proposes some concrete steps for consideration by the government, civil society organizations, and other key stakeholders concerned with restoring security and creating economic livelihood in the critical region of the Niger Delta.
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