ABUJA, April 4 Nigeria's lower house of
parliament on Tuesday launched a probe into a lack of funding
for an amnesty programme for militants in the country's
oil-producing heartland, a key factor in maintaining a tenuous
peace in the Niger Delta and supporting crude production.
Failure to maintain funding for former militants under the
2009 amnesty could jeopardise the relative stability in the
Delta and even result in oil production being choked off, as it
was last year by militant attacks that cut crude output by as
much as a third.
Nigeria's House of Representatives will "investigate the
circumstances leading to funding constraints affecting the
amnesty programme, with a view to avoiding reoccurrence and
report back to the House within two weeks for further
legislative action," it said in a motion.
It also said it would urge the finance minister to release
the 15 billion naira ($49 million) set aside in the 2016 budget
for the amnesty programme.
The finance ministry did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
"The situation is becoming more serious ... as tension and
threats are already palpable in the Niger Delta Region and
amongst the beneficiaries of the programme," said the lower
Five months of arrears are owed to former militants, as well
as education fees for students in Nigeria and overseas, it said.
Last month, former militant leaders in the Niger Delta urged
the government to pay out delayed amnesty stipends or face
The government is now in talks with militants to end the
attacks that cut Nigeria's output by 700,000 barrels a day (bpd)
for several months last year, reducing total production at that
time to about 1.2 million bpd. It has since rebounded.
Under the amnesty programme, each former militant is
entitled to 65,000 naira ($213) a month plus job training. But
last month, a special adviser to Nigeria's president said the
programme was facing a cash crunch.
Authorities had previously cut the budget for cash payments
to militants to end corruption. They later resumed payments to
keep pipeline attacks from crippling vital oil revenues.
Two months of stipends were paid out in January, but the
amnesty office said foreign school fees and other allowances had
not been sent by the federal government yet.
The damage from attacks on Nigeria's oil industry has
exacerbated a downturn in Africa's largest economy, which
slipped into recession in 2016 for the first time in 25 years,
largely due to low oil prices.
Crude oil sales make up around two thirds of government
($1 = 305.2000 naira)
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing
by Mark Potter)