Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan will relaunch efforts to educate and provide jobs to thousands of former militants next month after delays to an amnesty programme led many to return to criminality.
Timi Alaibe, presidential adviser on Niger Delta affairs, said Nigeria will seek to rehabilitate and reintegrate 20,192 former rebels, with the first batch of 2,000 scheduled for training in the first week of June.
Nigeria’s post-amnesty programme has stalled for months since ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua became ill last November.
Yar’Adua died last week and was immediately replaced by Jonathan, who has made security in the oil-producing Niger Delta one of his top priorities.
“Fresh impetus has been brought into the programme and we are presently at the critical stage of implementing demobilisation, rehabilitation and re-integration,” said Alaibe in a speech late on Wednesday.
Jonathan is scheduled on Friday to make his first presidential visit to Port Harcourt, the oil hub of the Niger Delta.
Security officials say former militants fed up with the delays are regrouping and are behind a renewed wave of kidnappings, robberies and oil theft.
“The long waiting period before disarmed elements were given access to reintegration opportunities led to unrest among the disarmed groups and episodes of violence,” Alaibe said.
Oil production from Africa’s biggest energy producer has declined by 1 million barrels per day since May 2009 because of the insecurity in the Niger Delta, he said.
That has cost the government about 8.7 billion naira in lost revenues.
Industry sources say there has also been a sharp rise in bunkering — the theft of industrial quantities of crude oil — and illegal refining, as militants who took part in the amnesty but have not been retrained seek other sources of income.
Royal Dutch Shell was forced to declare a force majeure on Nigerian Bonny crude oil liftings for May and June last week because of leaks and fires on a key pipeline blamed on thieves.
Former rebels are also believed to be behind an attack on an oil pipeline in Brass River that forced Italian oil firm Agip to declare a force majeure — freedom from contractual obligations — on its exports.
SOURCED FROM REUTERS