Abuja starts paying former militants again in a move to revive its oil income
Yenagoa — Nigeria has resumed paying cash stipends to former militants under a 2009 amnesty in its Niger Delta oil hub, a government official said on Thursday.
The government has been holding talks with militants to end attacks on crude pipelines that cut Nigerian output by 700,000 barrels a day for several months last year.
Officials at first cut the budget for cash payments to militants to end corruption, but resumed payments to stop pipeline attacks cutting vital oil revenue.
"Two months of the ex-militants’ stipends were paid yesterday ... The rest of their stipends will be paid later in batches by (central bank) CBN," said Piriye Kiyaramo of the government amnesty office.
He said the stipends were for August and September. All former militants are entitled under the amnesty to 65,000 naira ($206.68) monthly plus job training.
Eric Omare, spokesman for the Ijaw Youth Council, which represents the Delta’s biggest ethnic group, said former militants complained to the region’s top negotiator handling talks with the government about payment delays.
President Muhammadu Buhari met Niger Delta leaders and representatives of the militants in November to discuss their demands but little progress has emerged publicly since then.
The militants and residents who sympathise 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% of government revenue and the attacks have deepened an economic crisis brought on by low global oil prices.
Nigeria produces "close to" 1.8 million barrels a day of crude, its oil minister said last month, the latest official figure. Output had been 2.2 million bpd at the start of 2016 when a wave of pipeline attacks began.