Rebels in Nigeria surrender weapons under amnesty

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thousands of rebels in Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta have surrendered their weapons, after they accepted a government offer of amnesty, reports say.

Nigerian president Yar'Adua at the 2008 World Economic Forum
Image: World Economic Forum.

Local rebel leader Government Tompolo arrived in Warri on Sunday, after promising to support Nigerian president Umaru Yar'Adua in return for a pardon. He was among the heads of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), blamed for halting a large portion of oil in 2003 from the Nigerian west delta.

if they refuse to develop our region we will go back to the creeks.

—Ateke Tom

The leader of another group, the Ijaw Niger Delta Vigilantes, Ateke Tom, and five thousand fighters also surrendered arms in the city of Port Harcourt. However, Tom said that his group would restart attacks if the Nigerian government did not follow up on their promise to invest in the area, saying that "if they refuse to develop our region we will go back to the creeks."

Other rebel groups had refused to disarm until their main demands were discussed, but the government said it was unwilling to negotiate until weapons were surrendered. Niger Delta's religious and community leaders had mounted pressure on the militants to embrace the peace process.

With their disarmament, the government's pledge to resolve years of violence that has stopped the flow of one million barrels of oil per day appears to be on course. President Umaru Yar'Adua, whose 60-day amnesty offer commenced on August 6, said that the government is keen to build upon the success so far achieved.

Since 2006, militant activities have crippled operations of oil companies in southern Nigeria, resulting in a steep decline in production. Nigeria, one of Africa's two biggest oil producers, derives more than 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings from oil.