- The Nigerian government is considering granting amnesty to armed groups in the Niger Delta to end the deadly crisis in the oil rich region. The Delta rebellion has cut the country oil out by almost a quarter since 2006.
President Umaru Yar'Adua has said the government is ready to pardon all armed militias who are ready to lay their arms down, and integrate them into the government system.
"We are working on the holistic development and implementation of the Niger Delta Master Plan. We have created the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to champion the overall and holistic development of oil producing area,” the president said.
He said the government is also funding a re-positioned Joint Task Force (JTF) to enforce law and order in the area, saying the government is currently working out the new rules of engagement for the JTF. The task force will however be given only six months mandate.
"The government has released enough funds for the JTF to acquire the proper capacity to be able to enforce law and order in the Niger Delta," he added.
The unrest has forced oil giants such as Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron to move all but their most essential foreign staff out of the region, while the drop in output has reduced Nigeria's foreign earnings.
Armed groups in the Delta such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), that have claimed to be fighting for a greater share of the regions resources, have accused the government of neglecting the region despite being the main source of the country’s wealth.
The country has also been under pressure as oil workers threatened to go on strike complaining of lack of security in the region and the government’s proposed deregulation of all the petroleum products.
Meanwhile, addressing the 47th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the president regretted the non-participation of Nigeria in the Group of 20 countries talks in London.
“I must say that is a sad day for me. And I think it should be for all Nigerians too, when 20 leaders of the leading countries in the world are meeting and Nigeria is not there. This is something we need to reflect upon,” he told the gathering, saying Nigeria has the population, potential, and capacity to assist in the global economic crisis.
Admitting that the impact of the economic meltdown was beginning to manifest in the country, Mr Yar'Adua called on Nigerians to prepare for measures that would be taken by government to ease the situation.
“It is for us to take measures to mitigate the effects of this crisis - to ensure that the crisis does not degenerate into greater hardship for our people, and to ensure that Nigeria comes out of this crisis stronger,” he said.
Nigeria is the world's eight largest oil exporter, and earns more than 80 percent of its revenue from oil.
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