The main militant group in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta today named a team of mediators to negotiate with the government over disarmament but said the amnesty process “lacked integrity”.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) named a team including Nobel Prize-winning writer Wole Soyinka and two retired senior military officials who it said had volunteered to act as mediators on its behalf.
“These eminent persons will be known as the Aaron Team and have our mandate to oversee a transparent and proper MEND disarmament process,” the group said in an emailed statement.
“The MEND disarmament process will only come after the root causes of militancy and agitation in the Niger Delta have been addressed by the Nigerian government,” it said.
President Umaru Yar’Adua offered an unconditional pardon in June to all Niger Delta gunmen who laid down their weapons.
The offer was one of the most serious attempts yet to stem unrest which has prevented Nigeria from pumping much above two thirds of its oil capacity, costing it billions of dollars a year in lost revenue.
Presidential adviser Timi Alaibe told Reuters this month that 6000 gunmen had signed up for the amnesty.
But key militant leaders including Ateke Tom and Government Tompolo, who command thousands of gunmen in the region and have links to MEND, have yet to surrender and want the amnesty deadline pushed back to allow dialogue on demands including a partial military withdrawal.
The government has denied their request, saying the amnesty terms must be accepted without conditions.
Pic: MEND militant