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Buhari resumes cash payments to Niger Delta ex-militants

By The Citizen
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The Federal Government has resumed cash payments to militants in the Niger Delta, officials said on Wednesday. .

The media consultant to the Presidential Amnesty Office, Owei Lakemfa, said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would directly pay into the bank accounts of beneficiaries.

The Amnesty Programme's spokesman, Piriye Kiyaramo, initially said the payments, which include tuition for those studying abroad, had been made on Monday, but militants told the BBC that they had yet to receive the money.

Kiyaramo later told the BBC that the money would be paid by last night according to Reuters.

'We expect the amnesty to be paid tonight to 30,000 youths involved in the amnesty programme. The Central Bank has released the money,' he said yesterday.

Under the amnesty deal, each militant is entitled to N65,000 a month and job training.

The government stopped the payments in February, resulting in the militants accusing it of breaching a deal negotiated in 2009. But the government had said it was looking into aspects of the programme to see where it could be revisited. Local militants in the Niger Delta including the Niger Delta Avengers have claimed several attacks on critical oil and gas facilities in the area, especially since the beginning of this year, with the federal government accusing them of sabotaging the national economy.

The latest move is therefore seen as an attempt to curb the attacks which have severely affected oil production.

Lakemfa however said the proposed Maritime University in Okerenkeko, Delta State, which is one of the militants' demands, is a project of the Ministry of Transport with the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC).

The Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) recently said it had commenced the third phase of sustainable reintegration of about 30,000 ex-militants in the region.

Amid attacks and plans by the militants to disrupt the peace and national assets in the region, Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, had pleaded with the federal government to pay their outstanding allowances.

In a response, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, retired Brig-Gen. Paul Boroh, said the payments would be made in July, and reiterated the federal government's commitment towards re-engineering the Amnesty Programme in their favour.

Boroh said the Amnesty Programme had been successful but added that vandalism in the region must be checked.

Meanwhile, several groups have emerged to interface with the federal government in the ongoing dialogue for cessation of hostilities in the Niger Delta, as a result of which sources said the government was gradually being discouraged from the dialogue option.

Besides the well-known Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) that seemed to have struck an accord with the government, there are indications that the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the National Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators (NCNDE-A) and the Adaka Boro Avengers (ADA) are presenting separate negotiating teams.