ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria’s government has resumed cash payments for former militants in the restive Niger Delta, an official said on Monday, in a bid to end a wave a wave of militant attacks on oil and gas facilities.
In February, Nigeria stopped the payments for former militants who agreed under a 2009 amnesty to stop blowing up crude pipelines in exchange for cash, the official said.
The government says it has been holding talks with militants they suspect of being behind a recent wave of attacks on pipelines that has reduced Nigeria’s crude output by 700,000 barrels a day.
“Payments of stipends to the ex-militants resumed this Monday. The payments are done directly from the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) to their bank accounts,” said the amnesty program’s media officer Piriye Kiyaramo.
“The payment also includes tuition for those studying abroad,” he said. “Their last payment was in February this year. Now we are clearing all outstanding and the payments.”
Each of the former militant is entitled under the amnesty to 65,000 naira ($203.44) monthly plus job training. But the government had originally planned to cut the amnesty by two-thirds and limit cash payments amid a budget crisis and graft.
The militants and residents who sympathize with them say they want a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth to go to the impoverished region.
Crude sales make up about 70 percent of government revenue and the attacks have deepened an economic crisis brought on by low global oil prices.
In June, government officials said a one-month ceasefire had been reached. But Niger Delta Avengers, the group that has claimed responsibility for the majority of attacks dating back to January, said it had not agreed a truce.
Since then the group has said it would not take part in talks unless international mediators were involved.
($1 = 319.5000 naira)
Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Tom Heneghan