Nigeria’s president will soon meet former rebel leader Henry Okah to seek advice on dealing with the OPEC member’s main militant group which has threatened to resume oil attacks, a government source said.
Many believe Okah, who was freed from detention in July after accepting a federal amnesty offer, was at one time the brains behind the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and its attacks that have battered Africa’s biggest energy producer for the last three years.
Okah denied ever being MEND’s leader in an interview with Reuters in July.
“The reason why the president is meeting him is because of the reaction of these people who call themselves MEND, who are threatening to start attacking oil installations,” a presidency source told Reuters.
The militant group ended its three-month ceasefire last week and has threatened to resume its campaign of violence against the oil industry and Nigerian security forces.
But MEND has been severely weakened since its leaders and thousands of gunmen accepted an amnesty and disarmed. It is unclear who is now running the group.
“(President Umaru Yar’Adua) wants to find out whether Okah has any links with them. If he does, the president wants to know what Okah can do to ensure there is peace in the area,” the source said.
Unrest in the region has cost Nigeria which vies with Angola as Africa’s biggest oil producer $1 billion (R7 billion) a month in lost revenues, according to the central bank, and has helped to push up global energy prices.
Okah, who was living with his family in South Africa for the past few months, returned to Abuja last week after the president arranged for a private jet to pick him up in Ghana.
Pic: President UmaraYar Adua of Nigeria