Nigeria: Relief as government releases allowances to rebels

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There is a sigh of relief in the Niger Delta as the Federal government of Nigeria began the first installments of monthly allowances that were promised to former militants in exchange for peace and civility. Earlier this month, the former rebels organized protest over non-payment of the arrears of their allowances and alleged neglect by government. While the government delayed the payments, fear arose over a return to violence and break in civility.

Wednesday, the Nigerian government kept its part of the bargain, and each former rebel in the rehabilitation camps at Rivers and Delta States, received a sum of N65,000 ($500). “As I speak to you, the Federal Government has commenced payment of the arrears owed former militants at various camps in the Niger Delta region. Normalcy has also been restored at the Aluu camp, near Port Harcourt,” Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, the Media Coordinator of the Amnesty Implementation Committee, was quoted on Wednesday Nov. 18.

The Nigerian government is reported to be decisively committed to the implementation of the post-amnesty program and would ensure that the former militants are properly rehabilitated. “The former militants should adopt peaceful means of conveying their grievances to government. We appeal to them to remain calm, because the program is on course”.

The Media Coordinator of the Amnesty Implementation Committee urged the former militants to exercise restraint and patience, stressing that violence would not achieve anything. The delay in the payment was as a result of poor communication between former rebel leaders and government officials, Dr. Koripamo-Agary said. “At a meeting we held with their leaders, they asked for time to enable them to study the program. They had not responded and we were waiting for them.”

Another tension the government had to deal with was the outbreak of violence in the rehabilitation camp amongst the different rebel factions that have been made to stay together. On Wednesday, Nov. 18, ex-militants clashed at their Aluu rehabilitation camp. But for the timely intervention of soldiers on ground, the development would have recorded casualties, local reporters said.

There are about five different rebel groups abiding at the rehabilitation centre. Local reporters said the rehabilitation centre has already been divided along lines. Soldiers on ground have been to tighten security to prevent a repeat of the clash.

Former rebel leader Farah Dagogo said that the return of peace and civility was now up to the Nigerian government: “There are still thousands of people willing to continue fighting in the creeks and only the actions of the government can win over our brothers still bent on fighting.”

Some analysts insist that the rebels have certainly not given up their entire arsenals – but the quantities of weapons surrendered are significant, raising hopes of an end to the turbulence which has severely curtailed oil output for one of the world’s biggest exporters. Some also believe that the ex-militants are observing how the Nigerian government is handling the peace process.

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