ECOWAS AND ARMS CONTROL IN WEST AFRICA; A FOCUS ON THE NIGER-DELTA AMNESTY’
One of the biggest challenges facing ECOWAS member states and Nigeria in particular is arms proliferation. It has stoked ethnic clashes and simmering unrest in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. It is against this background that the ECOWAS Moratorium and subsequently the ECOWAS Convention on small arms and light weapons (SALW) was adopted by member states. Such as the Amnesty programme organized by the Yar’dua’s administration in Nigeria. The study has been designed to critically appraise the 2009 Amnesty programme in Nigeria as an arms control measure. To achieve this aim, the study was guided by two research questions and two hypotheses. To analyse the issues generated, we predicated analyses on the Relative Deprivation theory. The theory x-rays what has continuously fuelled armed struggle in the Niger Delta in spite of the Amnesty programme. Our research design was non experimental and we relied on primary and secondary sources of data. After a detailed analysis of relevant data, the study revealed that even though it is too early to appraise the Amnesty programme
in Nigeria, recent armed occurrences in the region has not even given the programme a step in the right direction. The study therefore, concludes that addressing the general poverty of the region can stem the tide of armed conflict instead of a massive rehabilitation of militants that surrendered their arms.
The crisis in the Niger Delta of Nigeria is increasingly attracting international attention due both to the growing security threat it portends for the Nigerian stateand, particularly, due to its impact on international oil prices. Although the Niger Delta problem has been around for several decades, the emergence of organized and militant pressure groups in the 1990s has added a new dimension to the crisis.
Protests and the threat of outright rebellion against the state are now ubiquitous. Environmental activism and militancy are a direct response to the impunity, human rights violations, and perceived neglect of the region by the Nigerian state on the one hand and through sustained environmental hazards imposed on local Niger Delta communities as a result of the oil production activities of multinational oil companies on the other.
From a contemporary global perspective, the dramatic upsurge in violent confrontation and protest against the state and oil multinationals in the 1990s coincided with the end of the Cold War. In essence, ‘soft’ issues such as the environment, gender equity and equality, human rights, democracy and good
governance have attained primacy on the international agenda. International concern over the crisis in the Niger Delta, including its attendant social and humanitarian implications, should be viewed within the context of this global attitudinal shift (Ojakorotu, 2009).
The internationalization of the Niger Delta crisis derives partly from the systematic publicity and struggle of the environmentalist, the late Ken Saro-Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa not only succeeded in directing the attention of the international community to the plight of the people of the Niger Delta but also – through his advocacy – paved the way for robust international/civil society engagement with the issues at the core of the crisis in the region (Ojakorotu, 2009).