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The Nigerian government has opted to resume making payments to the former militants as part of a plan to halt armed attacks against oil industry facilities in the Niger Delta region.
Officials last February halted making payments to the ex-rebels who in 2009 pledged to stop their offensive against the oil infrastructure in exchange for benefits. The aid received by the former combatants included a US$203.44 monthly payment as well as job training, but the government cut it off after a recent spate of attacks on oil pipelines.
Authorities at the time believed beneficiaries of the amnesty may have played a part in the violence at the oil-rich Niger Delta. Yet as reported in Bloomberg, the suspension of subsidies removed the incentives for former combatants to act as protectors. As a result, violence worsened and has forced Nigeria’s already troubled oil production to drop as low as 700,000 barrels per day.
“Payments of stipends to the ex-militants resumed this Monday. The payments are done directly from the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) to their bank accounts,” said the amnesty program's media officer, Piriye Kiyaramo, according to Reuters.
"The payment also includes tuition for those studying abroad," Kiyaramo added. "Their last payment was in February this year. Now we are clearing all outstanding and the payments."
The Nigerian government’s change in tactics comes amid a push to enact a ceasefire with rebel groups still operating in the Niger Delta region. Last June, a ceasefire was purportedly reached with the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the militants behind most of the attacks against pipelines this year. But the NDA claimed not to have signed a truce and will only hold negotiations if international mediators are allowed to participate.
The government started last week discussions with another militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. Yet if the negotiations should fail, the Nigerian military has been deployed in a possible show of force.
“Our troops are in position. My message to the militants is to ensure they go to the negotiation table," the chief of defense staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, mentioned last Friday.
A defense ministry spokesman claimed Nigerian military aircraft attacked hideouts in the creeks used by criminal gangs that steal refined oil products near the major city of Lagos.
By Erwin Cifuentes for Oilprice.com
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Erwin Cifuentes is a Contributing Editor for Southern Pulse Info where he focuses on politics, economics and security issues in Latin America and the Caribbean.…