Two months of grace for Nigerian militants

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Militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta of Nigeria have been offered two months to surrender and be rehabilitated, educated and transformed into regular society, under a special amnesty program. The proposal has been ratified by the country’s 36 governors, as well as former presidents and chief justices.

“I hereby grant amnesty and unconditional pardon to all persons who have directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offenses associated with militant activities in the Niger Delta,” said Nigeria president Umaru Yar’Adua said.”The grace period will begin on August 6 and end on October 4,” he added.

Some militants have expressed fears about their safety. They wonder if they would be free to walk the streets without being killed by law enforcement agents, after the amnesty program begins. None of the militant groups have commented on the offer, but several rebel factions have hinted about surrendering in exchange for a presidential pardon.

Some observers do not think that the amnesty program will ensure peace in the region.
Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo had proposed amnesty to militiamen in the past, but it did not succeed in ending the conflict. Some experts have said that until justice, economic fairness, and development schemes are put in place, peace may continue to be elusive. Nigerian president Yar’Adua assured the visiting Russian president Dmitri Medvedev: “I am hopeful and confident that by the end of this year, we will have a secure and stable environment in the Niger Delta.”

On Wednesday morning (June 24), militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) carried out an attack on an oil pipeline owned by Royal Dutch Shell to pass a message to the visiting Russian president. “This is the fate that awaits the gas pipelines you plan to invest in Nigeria if justice is not factored in the whole process,” MEND said in a message to Mr. Medvedev, reports claim.

Attacks on oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and Chevron have cut Nigeria’s oil output to less than two-thirds of its capacity, which has been three million barrels a day over the past three years. About 20,000 militants are expected to participate in the scheme, but observers wonder if an amnesty alone will be enough to halt widespread pipeline bombings, oil theft, and kidnappings.

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