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Nigerian Oil Militant Criticizes Government Over Delta Neglect


Nigeria's violent Niger Delta has been relatively quiet in the past few weeks, as the government continues consultations ahead of a summit on the region. But some of the region's militants say the fragile peace is being threatened by a lack of government commitment to the crisis, as Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports for VOA.

Nigerian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, an ethnic Ijaw from the Niger Delta, has met with tribal and militant leaders in preparation for government-sponsored peace talks.

The talks were supposed to take place at the end of this year, but now may be rescheduled for 2008, as a number of crucial issues remain unresolved, starting with the venue for the talks.

The militants insist on hosting them in the Niger Delta instead of the federal capital, Abuja. Agreeing on a list of invitees has not been easy. The government's current push to repatriate a top militant from Angola could complicate the process further.

As federal authorities grapple with a roadmap to peace in the Delta, some of the region's militants are beginning to question the new government's commitment to resolving the crisis.

They say the government's proposed budget for 2008 does not include what they consider sufficient funding to transform the impoverished oil-rich region.

Tom Pullo, a powerful militant who heads a rebel group in the Niger Delta, told VOA in a telephone interview Friday, that the region's right to control its oil resources remains a key demand in future negotiations with the government.

"We want to control our resources ourselves. We want the development that is [seen in] other parts of the country to be in the Niger Delta. For example, we don't have good drinking water, we don't have good schools. There is no electricity. And, we produce the highest income that the country is using today."

Armed groups protesting neglect and poverty in the vast wetlands region have stepped up violence against oil workers and industry facilities since the 1990s.

The violence has forced thousands of foreigners to leave Africa's top oil producing region, reducing output by more than 20 percent.

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