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Nigerian Peace Group Calls for Permanent Peace in Oil-Rich Delta

By Chinedu Offor
05 October 2009

The Nigerian government’s amnesty for Niger Delta militants ended today, and peace activist Onengiya Erekosima said the administration should quickly take advantage of the end of fighting to begin the process of building a genuine peace. Erekosima is the president of the Niger Delta Non-Violent Movement, which promotes dialogue between rebels and the government.

As the amnesty came to an end, another top rebel commander surrendered. But some members of the main rebel group, MEND, continue to hold out in the creeks, prompting fears that the fighting in the oil-rich but impoverished area is not over.

There are still issues that could undermine the search for permanent peace, said Erekosima:
“There are about 54 people in prison, Port Harcourt prison, including one Oneni Hart. He is the leader of the Bonny (a town in the Niger Delta region) team, the MEND in Bonny side, and the government is dodging that area, not to go and release those people. That is the only place I have fear now that the amnesty might have problem.”

The government must encourage peace, he said, by supporting organizations that represent peace. “Our people here do not understand much about the non-violent way of demanding for things.”

“The government is not interested in supporting non-violent programs,” said Erekosima. The government denies the charge, pointing out that it took the initiative by giving the militants amnesty.

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