Nigeria: New goups spring up as former rebels surrender

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The Nigerian government has successfully disarmed rebel factions of the Niger Delta, in a presidential pardon that included cash, education, rehabilitation and amnesty for militants. The main rebel groups turned in their weapons, over the weekend, to end years of rebel attacks on the Nigerian oil industry.

Prominent militant commanders led their supporters in surrendering their weapons. Militant leader Mr. Farah Dagogo said he was accepting the amnesty with the hope that it will usher in a true spirit of reconciliation, while the leader of the main rebel faction in the Niger Delta, Government Tompolo, disarmed in return for promises of money and education for his fighters.

Another surrendering rebel leader was Mr. Ateke Tom also said the government needed to ensure that promises made to fighters were kept. “I am surrendering my arms today because President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is sincere. When I spoke with him on October 1st in Abuja, I noticed that he shares our problems and he is sincere to solve our problems. We must get what we want. The government is very tricky, we’re watching them,” he is quoted.

Nigerian Defense Minister, Godwin Abbe, described the surrender of arms as an act of patriotism and a dream come true. “It’s an indication that peace has finally come to the Niger Delta. The time has come for us to settle down as a country and find a solution to the problem that led to the crisis in the region,” he is quoted.

Arms surrendered

According to the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty, Air Vice-Marshal Lucky Ararile, the process was a significant strategy that would bring peace in the country: “Though the challenges were enormous, it was great to see thousands of arms surrendered by the ex-militants in the region.”

The deadly weapons surrendered by the militants range from General Purpose Machine Guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, anti-aircraft guns, Brownie, dynamites, bombs, rocket chargers, sticker and grenades.

Rebels of the oil-rich Niger Delta took up arms; they bunkered, stole and sold oil, kidnapped and vandalized oil facilities in the name of justice for the impoverished people of the Niger Delta. The proceeds from the Delta’s oil wealth did not do any good to the local people and their communities.

New groups springing up

In August, the Nigerian government under president Umaru Yar’Adua ordered a 60-day government amnesty, offering cash, training and a rehabilitation program for any fighter who laid down arms. Even though hundreds of rebel fighters have surrendered.

But skeptics have said it is unlikely that any of the guerrillas are giving up all their arms. With unconfirmed reports replete with certitude that a minority of militants insist on fighting on, as new leaders replace those who have already surrendered, the Nigerian government has its hands full trying to bring an end to rebel activity, on one hand, while making sure that new groups do not spring up, on the other.

MEND, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main rebel group has refused to go along with the truce claiming that former leaders have been replaced. Experts say that unless the real source of the problem is tackled, rebels will continue using the impoverished region as an excuse to continue their activities.

Nigeria currently pumps between 1.8 million and 1.9 million barrels a day, with more then 500,000 barrels a day of oil production capacity cut down by the militant attacks, the Paris based International Energy Agency estimates. Other sources claim that the unrest has cut Nigeria’s oil production by nearly a million barrels a day, allowing Angola to overtake it as Africa’s top oil producer.

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