Nigeria: Suspicions over rebel disarmament fund embezzlement mount

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The Nigerian government has offered to pay repentant rebels of the Niger Delta, N20,000 ($135) every month, and N1,500 ($ 9) a day for food, as part of the amnesty package to help incorporate the rebels back into regular society.

While the gesture has been welcomed by many Nigerians, suspicion arise about the transparency of the process.The list of surrendering rebels has been stated to be ten thousand but correspondents have argued the figures, saying there are hundreds, not thousands of fighters.

There is a possibility that corrupt and unscrupulous government officials will seize the opportunity to embezzle or enrich themselves by inflating the number of rebels, and siphoning money through ghost militants.

In Nigeria, the practice of embezzling government funds by accounting for ghost workers in civil services and public offices is reported to be as old as the country’s corruption record.

The authorities have set up 27 collection and reintegration centers for the disarming fighters, where they would be rehabilitated and paid, and though government has fought against ghost-worker fraud in the past, Nigerian skeptics believe the practice is still part of the system and may be utilized in the amnesty package promised to surrendering rebels.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) had always claimed that it fought so the local people could benefit more from their region’s oil.

But violent kidnappings of civilians, vandalism, and the theft of oil had been a major part of their rebellion. After a major military offensive in May, President Umara Yar’Adua proposed the amnesty, in an offer which lasts until October. The rebellion in the Niger Delta caused a sharp drop in Nigeria’s oil production.

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