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The federal government of Nigeria has increased the budget for its amnesty program for militants from the Niger Delta almost threefold, to US$170 million (55 billion naira), in a bid to solidify the peace process in the oil-rich delta.
Until last year, the annual budget for the amnesty program was US$60 million (20 billion naira). Now, another US$100 million (30 billion naira) will be added to this and at some later point, US$20 million (5 billion naira) will bulk up the package.
In a statement, the presidential administration reported that it had paid up all allowances for ex-militants under the program until the end of 2016. Every militant who pays down arms and agrees to enter the program is entitled to a monthly payment of US$206.19 (65,000 naira).
Militancy in the Niger Delta, from groups claiming the government did not distribute the revenues from Nigeria’s oil wealth proportionately leaving the local communities to live in poverty, last year cost the country a third of its crude oil production. This aggravated Nigeria’s economic situation amid the oil price rout.
Now, the government seems determined to make the peace work: besides the announcement of the increased amnesty program budget, Abuja has undertaken to invest billions in a large-scale gas project for the Delta, aiming to turn it into a regional gas hub and create new jobs for the local communities.
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Yet, the government might find itself fighting an uphill battle: just last Friday reports emerged that at least six soldiers were killed in clashes with Niger Delta militants accused of oil theft. On Monday, the Nigerian Army said in a statement that troops in a special operations mission in Ajakpa community repelled an attack led by gang leader Ossy Ibori who was killed in a gun fight along with some members of his gang.
On Friday, military officials told a news conference that at least six soldiers were killed in the clash. The operation is still ongoing.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.