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Nigerian President Declares Niger Delta Stable

Nigerian President Declares Niger Delta Stable

Nigerian President Declares Niger Delta Stable

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Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has declared the conflict that plagued the oil producing Niger Delta has ended after a recent amnesty for rebels in the region that he called successful. The overall security situation remains fragile.

Nigeria's president, Umaru Yar'Adua, told a visiting OPEC delegation that Nigeria can now meet its current production quota of 1.8 million barrels per day. At peak production levels, the country can pump around 2.6 million barrels per day.

Mr. Yar'Adua reassured OPEC officials that attacks on the oil industry that sharply reduced Nigerian oil output have subsided, thanks to the amnesty program.

"Our problem is over," he said. "The agitations and the militancy arising from the oil and gas industry is over, and now I think that the situation is back to normal and within six months, maximum, it will be part of our history."

The violence has subsidized in recent months, but industry analysts caution it is too early to say if the security situation in the oil producing region has improved. The U.S. Embassy is urging restraint and dialogue in resolving outstanding issues relating to the amnesty.

The amnesty program brought in more than 8,000 militants - the government says the final figure could be more than 15,000. But the peace process has been called a sham by the main militant group.

The amnesty granted immunity from prosecution to any militant who renounced violence before October 4. The chief amnesty coordinator, Air Vice Marshall Lucky Ararile, says tough action will be taken against militants still operating in the region.

"You are not supposed to carry arms," he said. "As from fourth of October, any person that bears arms illegally and is seen or caught will be dealt with according to the law."

Since the 1970s, Nigeria has pumped more than $300 billion worth of crude from the southern delta states, according to estimates. But high unemployment, environmental degradation due to oil and gas exploitation, and a lack of basic resources such as fresh water and electricity have angered some of the region's youth and incited them to take up arms.

The government says the amnesty is the first step to bring peace to the region, but skeptics question whether the amnesty will bring an end to the violence, saying the government has done very little to create employment or training opportunities for those who handed over their guns.