An amnesty for thousands of militants in south-eastern Nigeria has brought relative stability to the region, enabling its huge oil industry to recover but, as the BBC’s Will Ross reports, some are questioning how long the peace can hold.
“If I’d set eyes on you back in those days we would not be talking like this,” says Tobine with a menacing smile. “I would have made a call to find one or two ways to make money out of you.”
Tobine means he would have kidnapped me for ransom.
Until the 2009 amnesty agreement, he was a militant in the Niger Delta where rival gangs fought each other for supremacy and targeted the oil companies. The insecurity was costing Nigeria tens of millions of dollars every day as oil production was severely disrupted.
They have stained their hands in blood and have done so many things, so it takes you a great deal to train them to the standard they are now”
“We were doing some bad, bad things; raping, kidnapping busting the pipelines just to make money,” says the man who fellow militants used to call Jah Rule.
Tobine is 25 and is reminded of these experiences every time he looks in the mirror. There is a deep vertical scar below his eye – a souvenir from the day he was attacked by a machete-wielding man from a rival gang.
But Tobine’s life has taken a dramatic turn and now he hopes to get a job with one of the oil companies whose pipelines he once attacked. He is among a group of 40 trainees graduating from a pipeline-welding course in Port Harcourt.
“I’m doing great. I’m proud about myself, but I want to go higher. My parents are proud of me. I want to make them more proud,” he says, adding he has no desire to return to the bush as he now wants to help his family, including his six-year-old daughter.