The period between 2003 and 2009 witnessed an intensification of military insurgency and a dangerous degeneration of the conflict in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. The attacks on the oil production facilities by insurgent groups, sabotage by criminal syndicates and a flourishing kidnapping industry had transformed the Niger Delta from a region of political and social instability into a virtual war zone. Oil production had declined by over a million barrels, to about 1.6 million barrels per day. Major oil companies started relocating or shutting down their facilities from the region as the violence, which eventually spread to the other parts of the country could not be repressed by the heavily armed Joint Task Force (JTF) of the Nigerian Military. The implication of the crisis for the political and economic survival of Nigeria is believed to have propelled the Yar’adua administration in mid-2009 to offer ‘amnesty’ to the militants as part of a negotiated process of ending the insurgency in the region, while the issues in the conflict were being addressed by the government. This novel and unprecedented strategy was and still remains controversial but many agree that the problem of insurgency in the region was reasonably contained for several years following the offer of amnesty. This paper is an attempt to analyze the relevance of this policy as a negotiation strategy and a conflict management tool that can be used for future interventions in similar conflicts within the country and across the continent.
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