Nigeria urges main militant group to take amnesty

Nigeria’s main militant group should rethink its threat to resume attacks on the country’s oil industry and instead lay down its weapons and accept an amnesty, a government official said on Monday.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), responsible for attacks that have wrought havoc on Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, said on Saturday it would resume its campaign of violence on September 15.

Mend, which declared a 60-day ceasefire in July to allow for peace talks, said it had suspended negotiations with the government.

“They [Mend] should reconsider their stand and join the amnesty boat because the boat is about to sail,” said Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, spokesperson for the presidential panel on amnesty.

President Umaru Yar’Adua offered an unconditional pardon in June to all militants who take part in the amnesty, the latest effort to stem unrest that has prevented Nigeria from pumping much above two-thirds of its oil capacity in recent years.

The amnesty programme officially ends on October 4.

Mend, a loose coalition of militant groups, has denounced the scores of rebels that have surrendered their weapons and taken up the amnesty.

Hundreds of militants handed over machine guns, rocket launchers, mortar bombs and gunboats in a public ceremony in the Bayelsa state capital, Yenagoa, on Saturday.

“You cannot wish away what happened in Yenagoa over the weekend,” Koripamo-Agary said. “[Mend] says it will resume hostilities by September 15. Let’s wait and see.”

Some security analysts expect the military to launch another major offensive against militants who do not accept the amnesty once the 60-day offer period ends in October.

But Koripamo-Agary said there was no such threat and that there was still time for peace talks.—Reuters

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