Sunday, September 27, 2009

Nigeria: Repentant militants protest non-payment of promised allowances

Nigeria's latest plan to end militant attacks in the volatile Niger Delta appears to be in trouble as repentant militants protest non-payment of promised allowances for the third time since the 60-day amnesty program began.

Hundreds of militants in Bayelsa's state capital Yenegoa took to the streets on Friday, during which they blockaded roads and disrupted commerce, over the government's failure to pay them for handing over their weapons.

The former rebels have threatened to return to the creeks and resume attacks against the oil industry if they are not paid. An ex-militant, Tom Brown, tells VOA the government has failed to deliver on its promises under the amnesty deal.

"The federal government is not trying. They are only preaching amnesty, amnesty, amnesty. We are just there taking care of ourselves, managing our lives. Nothing has been given to us till this moment. All our outstanding allowances should be given to us since they have granted us federal amnesty."

Under the amnesty offer, rebels who surrender their weapons and accept the amnesty will get a few hundred dollars a month, training and job opportunities. Officials say 6,000 gunmen have embraced the deal since President Umaru Yar'Adua offered the amnesty in June.

The government concedes that several of the former militants were yet to be paid, and promised to speed up the process.

The amnesty offer is set to expire on October 4. The government has rejected calls from some of the region's top militant commanders to extend the deadline by three months to allow for dialogue on demands.

The umbrella organization for armed groups in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has rejected the latest peace efforts as a sham. The group, responsible for attacks that crippled Africa's biggest oil industry over the last three years, is observing a ceasefire but has threatened to resume attacks if substantive negotiations are not held.

Published with the permission of Voice of America
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