Peacebuilding and transformational change in Nigeria's oil region

Date01 March 2020
AuthorObasesam Okoi
Published date01 March 2020
Peacebuilding and transformational change in
Nigeria's oil region
Obasesam Okoi
Department of Peace and Conflict Studies,
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
Obasesam Okoi, Department of Peace and
Conflict Studies, University of Manitoba,
Winnipeg, Canada.
Funding information
Janice Filmon Award for Peace Studies
This article draws on primary sources to examine post-
conflict transformations in Nigeria's oil region. The over-
arching goal of the article is to evaluate the impact of
Nigeria's disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration
program and its effectiveness as a vehicle for peacebuilding
in the oil region, focusing specifically on the changes it has
brought to the lives of former insurgents at the cultural,
intrapersonal, structural, and interpersonal (CISI) levels.
This study introduces the CISI model of conflict transfor-
mation to put these changes into context and explain why
they are crucial for understanding peacebuilding and trans-
formational change.
Oil extraction in Nigeria has generated unprecedented prosperity for the state and oil multinationals
but massive inequality in communities with an abundance of oil wealth. Such contradictions have
exacerbated the vulnerability of local communities and pushed thousands of aggrieved youths to take
up arms against the state and oil multinationals, rendering the Niger Delta region almost ungovern-
able (Chukwuemeka & Aghara, 2010; Idemudia, 2009; Ikelegbe, 2006; Obi, 2010; Watts, 2007).
The emergence of armed groups such as the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities, Niger Delta
Volunteers, and the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force in the early 2000s championed by Tom
Polo, Asari Dokubo, and Ateke Tom transformed the character of the Niger Delta struggle. Asuni
(2009) notes that both Ateke Tom and Asari Dokubo operated criminal networks in the Niger Delta
around oil bunkering and exerted substantial influence in the politics of Rivers state. While Ateke's
disposition to criminality suggests that his intents were self-serving, Asari espoused ideological
aimsto legitimize his actions as a struggle for freedom (Asuni, 2009, p. 15).
Realizing the effects of the insurgency on the nation's economy, on June 25, 2009, the late Presi-
dent Musa Yar'Adua announced the federal government's plan to facilitate the transition from war to
peace in the oil region, beginning with the proclamation of amnesty and unconditional pardon to the
Received: 6 March 2019 Revised: 11 July 2019 Accepted: 8 September 2019
DOI: 10.1002/crq.21270
Conflict Resolution Quarterly. 2020;37:223238. © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 223
insurgents. After that, the state embarked on an ambitious peacebuilding program as a precondition
for addressing the insecurities in the oil region. The precise elements of peacebuilding include dis-
arming the insurgents, decommissioning and destroying their weapons, and advancing efforts to
build their capacity through a range of activities including education, entrepreneurship, and voca-
tional skills training in both local and offshore training centers. This article examines postconflict
transformations in Nigeria's oil region to understand the impact of disarmament, demobilization, and
reintegration (DDR) interventions, focusing specifically on the changes it has brought to the lives of
former insurgents and their communities. This article attempts to put these changes into context and
explain why they are crucial for understanding conflict transformation in the oil region. The theoreti-
cal argument is that the exinsurgents who have experienced changes in their lives have more incen-
tives to become nonviolent and less likely to resume insurgency. Therefore, what defines the state of
peace in the oil region is not the suspension of hostilities but how DDR activities affect the lives of
the exinsurgents. The analysis shows that postconflict peacebuilding in the oil region manifests in
four levers of change, which constitute the CISI (cultural, intrapersonal, structural, and interpersonal)
model of conflict transformation. The CISI model makes a unique contribution to conflict transfor-
mation thinking.
I divide this article into eight sections. The introductory section provides an overview of the
study, followed by a brief methodological section, while the third section lays out the conceptual
framework of the CISI model. Sections four to seven provides a thematic analysis of the CISI model
while the concluding section provides a summary of the study and its implication.
This study focusses on three states within Nigeria's region: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and Rivers. Bayelsa
and Rivers are high-conflict states because of the prevalence of violence, while Akwa Ibom is a low-
conflict state where insurgent activities mostly involve passive resistance. These sites were selected
based on geographic proximity, accessibility to key-informants and their willingness to share infor-
mation voluntarily.
There are 30,000 registered participants in Nigeria's DDR database comprising of exinsurgents
and noninsurgents from the nine states of the Niger Delta. For the quantitative phase, I drew 100% of
the survey participants from this sampling frame. I administered a total of 396 questionnaires to the
two categories of respondents, representing 2% of the total population of delegates registered in the
DDR database from Akwa Ibom, Rivers, and Bayelsa. Responses were received from all the 396 par-
ticipants, resulting in an 84.8% response rate by exinsurgents and 15.2% by noninsurgents (youths
from the oil region those who did not take part in violence but integrated into the DDR program).
The population comprises of 63% youth (1835 years of age) and 37% adults (36 years and above).
Also, 84% of the respondents were predominantly men, while women represented 16%. I used the
snowballing sampling technique to recruit the survey participants and leveraged my initial contacts
in Akwa Ibom, Rivers, and Bayelsa to solicit referrals to other informants. I performed simple
descriptive statistics that provided summaries about the sample, displayed in frequency tables. In the
qualitative phase, I used purposeful sampling technique to recruit informants who are information-
rich(Patton, 1990, p. 169). I conducted a total of 45 interviews with purposefully selected infor-
mants recruited based on their experiences living or working in the oil region or as participants in the
DDR program.
224 OKOI

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