Washington DC, 24 October 2008 - In Nigeria, the government of Rivers State in the Niger Delta has offered amnesty to several militant groups operating in the oil-rich area, if they stop attacking government facilities. In reply, the militants asked the government to withdraw its security forces from the areas under their control as a condition for peace.
Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw represents Cross Rivers South, part of the Niger Delta region. He says the offer of amnesty is necessary to begin the process of bringing permanent peace to the region. "I think it is a good idea, I think anything that would bring peace to the Niger Delta region is a good idea and if the people are willing to lay down their arms and this criminality, it will clear the way for progress and development of the area. It will also remove all the impediment from production of crude (oil) and other things that are taking place in the area."
He says it would be a mistake for the militants to assume the government made the offer because it cannot sustain its present military operations against the groups. "I think the militants themselves have been under tremendous amount of pressure. So if it is possible in offering this gesture the militants can be re-integrated into the society and there is peace in the area, I don't think there is anything wrong with it at all and I would encourage it."
Henshaw says, "One can understand the feeling of bitterness if you have been attacked and if you have suffered in the process of the attack." But he says all those who have been adversely affected by the actions of the militants will have to be willing to forgive their excesses (in order to achieve) peace.