Niger Delta amnesty back on track, new boss named

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This file picture dated May 18, 2005 shows Shell's oil and gas terminal on Bonny Island in southern Nigeria's Niger Delta. Nigeria has replaced Saudi Arabia as the top crude oil supplier to India, the first time in at least four years that Saudi Arabia has lost its top spot. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images
This file picture dated May 18, 2005 shows Shell’s oil and gas terminal on Bonny Island in southern Nigeria’s Niger Delta. Nigeria has replaced Saudi Arabia as the top crude oil supplier to India, the first time in at least four years that Saudi Arabia has lost its top spot. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

Abuja (AFP) – Nigeria has appointed a new boss for the amnesty scheme for ex-Niger Delta oil rebels, in a move seen by observers as an attempt to put back on track the programme which doused militancy in the oil-rich region.

Violence caused by militants in the region from 2006 to 2009, including kidnappings and attacks on oil installations, played havoc with oil production in Africa’s largest oil producer, which dropped from 2.6 billion barrels per day to a low of about one million.

About 30,000 former rebel fighters were enrolled in the government amnesty programme after they turned in their weapons in 2009 in exchange for training and salaries for ex-militants and provision of infrastructure in the region.

Former president Umaru Yar’Adua granted unconditional amnesty to the ex-rebels, who fought against government’s inability to provide basic facilities to millions living in dire poverty in the region.

Besides provision of some of these facilities, hundreds of them were sent on retraining programme within and outside the country under the scheme.

But since President Muhammadu Buhari came into office in late May, many of the former militants, including those studying abroad on government scholarship, have complained of not receiving their monthly salaries and allowances.

The boss of the amnesty programme, Kingsley Kuku, who hails from the region, quit his office following the defeat of former president Goodluck Jonathan at the polls.

Kuku’s departure and the delay in appointing his successor are largely seen as responsible for the problems the former militants are encountering in receiving their pay.

“With the appointment of a new coordinator for the amnesty programme, the ex-militants will be assuaged and the scheme will be put back on the right track,” Owei Derioteidou, a civil servant from the region, told AFP.

Buhari late Tuesday appointed retired Brigadier General Paul Boroh, also from the same region, to replace Kuku.

“The appointment of a new coordinator for the amnesty programme is expected to lead to the speedy resolution of recent hitches in its implementation such as non-payment of outstanding allowances to ex-militants,” a statement from Buhari’s office said.

Boroh was a former commandant of the Nigerian army peacekeeping centre.

The amnesty programme is expected to end this year.

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