On Thursday, former militia leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari was freed on bail by a Nigerian court due to his health condition. Dokubo-Asari has been in detention since September 2005. He is on trial for treason. Dokubo-Asari belongs to the liaw ethnic group, which is the most populous group in the Niger Delta. Elders of the liaw group have unsuccessfully tried to have Dokubo-Asari released for the past two years. Moreover, the Supreme Court denied him bail last Friday because of national security fears.
Analysts believe that Dokubo-Asari was released as a result of a political deal between the Nigerian government and rebels in the southern Bayelsa state in the delta. Rebels in southern Nigeria have freed hostages, declared a truce, and are willing to communicate with the newly inaugurated President Umaru Yar’Adua. This truce will help to improve oil production in the region.
Powerful state figures have publicly approved the release of Dokubo-Asari. Emmanuel Diffa, a Liaw elder purports that the release is “good news for anyone with a business in the Niger Delta. It will pour cold water on the situation. Asari is key to bringing peace to the delta.” Asari has stated that he will help the Nigerian government as long as the army stops using violence. Government officials believe that Asari is a powerful voice to help persuade rebels to disarm. Nevertheless, Justice Peter Olayiwola has conditioned that Dukubo-Asari can not take part in any political rally or political activity upon release. Moreover, his movements will be monitored by security services.
For more information, please see:
BBC – Fight For Nigeria Oil to Continue – 15 June 2007
BBC – Hostages Released in Niger Delta – 12 June 2007
CNN – Nigerian oil delta militant freed on bail – June 2007