Over 1000 Niger Delta militant youths drove in a convoy of buses towards the Nigerian capital of Abuja, and blocked the highway for several hours, in protest of their exclusion from the on-going post-amnesty retraining program.
The presidential adviser on the amnesty, Timi Alaibe, who coordinates the retraining program allegedly failed to include the militant youths and the youths demanded that he [Mr. Alaibe] be removed.
“We surrendered our arms in November but more than six months after, the big men in Abuja have excluded us from the amnesty program because of the financial reward,” the militants spokesman, Aso Tambo, was quoted by reporters.
According to reports, the police intercepted the youths at Gwagwalada town, outside Abuja; appealed to them to call off the protest; and assured them that the government was looking into their case.
Nonetheless, Mr. Alaibe said in a statement that the decision to include the late comers into the program was not within his power, adding that the president has been briefed about their case.
“Once a waiver is secured from Mr. President, the agitators would be screened and properly documented and promptly included in the post-amnesty program,” Mr. Alaibe was quoted as saying.
The Niger Delta rebels have been fighting to ensure that the oil wealth benefits the estimated 30 million inhabitants of the region, but their battle for justice has been coated with attacks on Nigeria’s major gas production plant, disrupting fuel supplies, cutting down electricity supply in the Delta state region, as well as violent kidnappings of civilians, vandalism and oil theft.
Nigeria’s Late President, Umuru Yar’Adua, granted amnesty and unconditional pardon to all militants who surrendered their arms between August and early October last year, and more than 20,000 of them turned in their arms during the stipulated period. The amnesty which was to ensure peace in the troubled Niger Delta region, included a rehabilitation program that centered around education and training opportunities for the ex rebels.
Under the new administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, the militants began their retraining program in batches in southeastern Cross River State.
Nigeria, the world’s 11th largest oil producer and seventh largest holder of natural gas, accounting for 75 percent of the Nigerian government’s revenues derives more than 90 percent of its foreign exchange from crude, but violence by armed rebels in the Niger Delta region from 2005 to 2009, grossly affected the country’s oil output.