Nigeria resumes payments to ex-militants as oil output drops

Nigeria resumed delayed payments to former militants in the oil-rich Niger River delta, addressing some grievances amid attacks that cut crude production close to a 30-year low.

About 30,000 ex-fighters, who were receiving a 65,000 naira ($206) monthly allowance, were told the government would resume paying stipends after a two-month “hiccup,” the office of Paul Boroh, coordinator of the presidential amnesty program, said in an e-mailed statement.

Nigeria is also trying to engage militants to establish a cease-fire after oil output fell to 1.4 million barrels a day, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Emmanuel Kachikwu said Monday on state television. Peace talks that started last week and the resumption of amnesty payments may do little to halt attacks on wells and pipelines by a different rebel faction, the Niger Delta Avengers, according to Ecobank Transnational Inc.

“I don’t think the payments are going to stop anything” until the government finds a longer-term solution that gives communities in the region a stake in the industry, Dolapo Oni, a Lagos-based analyst at Ecobank, said in a phone interview.

Cutting Financing

Following several years of relative calm, the attacks by the Delta Avengers started in February after Buhari ended security contracts and payments that had turned earlier militants into protectors. While the rebels say they want to expose corruption and earn justice for impoverished local communities, the return of violence has worsened economic problems in Nigeria, where oil accounts for two-thirds of government revenue and almost all exports.

Boroh’s office said he had assured the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta militants that their patience was appreciated by President Muhammadu Buhari, who backs the amnesty and plans to invest heavily in the region. The amnesty program is set to end in 2017 and the government earlier this year said it planned to cut financing by half to about $100 million.

Presidential spokesmen Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina didn’t immediately respond to calls and text messages seeking comment.

Nigerian military aircraft attacked hideouts in the creeks used by criminal gangs that steal refined petroleum products near the country’s commercial hub, Lagos, Rabe Abubakar, defence headquarters spokesman, said by phone from the capital, Abuja Monday.