A top Nigerian rebel leader is expected to be freed early this week, his lawyer said on Sunday, but analysts doubt his release will lead to a significant drop in militant attacks in Africa’s biggest oil sector.

Henry Okah, suspected leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), agreed to terms of a federal amnesty programme at the weekend and the government has promised to release him after more than a year in detention.

A presidential aide who attended the meeting with Okah’s lawyers told Reuters the government would on Monday formally withdraw its case against the rebel leader, who is on trial for gun-running and treason.

Although some militants have said they would lay down their arms if Okah is released, analysts believe violence in the Niger Delta will not subside.

Oil theft is a lucrative business in the region and politicians would continue to hire armed gangs to secure power in the run-up to the 2011 elections, analysts said.

“Okah’s decision notwithstanding, it is unlikely that the militia attacks in the Delta will abate any time soon,” Eurasia analyst Sebastian Spio-Garbrah said in a client note.

“Indeed, it is more likely to escalate into 2010 as intense political jockeying ahead of the 2011 general election begins.”

MEND, a loose faction of militant groups that began attacking oil facilities in early 2006, has dismissed the amnesty programme in its current form, but was willing to discuss its demands with the government.



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