Amnesty plan finalised for Nigeria militants


A Nigerian federal committee has finalised an amnesty programme for militants and criminals in the Niger Delta, considered key in bringing stability to the heartland of Africa‘s biggest oil and gas industry.

Interior Minister Godwin Abbe told Reuters on Wednesday the panel would submit the programme to President Umaru Yar’Adua for approval on Thursday.

Abbe, who is also chairman of the committee, declined to give details of the plan, Reuters adds.

Yar’Adua last week renewed his offer to grant amnesty to gunmen in the Niger Delta if they agreed to lay down their weapons, but the region’s main militant group has rejected it.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), responsible for attacks that have cut the OPEC member’s oil output by one-fifth in the last three years, said it would only consider a “well-defined” amnesty programme negotiated by both sides.

A military spokesman said yesterday the navy killed seven militants in a gun battle along the Isaka-Bakan waterway near Bonny in southern Nigeria‘s Rivers state.

Responding to a distress call by three passenger boats, the navy killed the militants on Tuesday in a shootout.

“We trailed the militants to their camp, rescued the boats and recovered (the militants’ weapons),” navy spokesman Edward Yeibo said.

Security forces last month launched their biggest offensive in years against militants in Delta state, bombarding militant camps from the air and sea and sending three battalions of soldiers to hunt down rebels in surrounding communities.

But Rivers and Bayelsa, the two other main states in the Niger Delta, have been relatively

calm with no reports so far of any major military offensive on the scale of the operations carried out around the port of Warri in Delta state.

MEND, a loose coalition of militant groups, has declared an “all-out war” against the military and bombed a Chevron pipeline last week forcing a loss in output of 100,000 barrels per day (bpd).