Militants of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta region say they are studying an amnesty offer announced by President Umaru Yar'Adua, but will turn in their heavy weapons by the August 4th deadline stipulated in the document. General Boy Loaf, a commander of the main militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, says the group however rejects the government’s inclusion of amnesty in the peace process.
“We are not criminals,” said Loaf. “Amnesty is offered to criminals and people that have been convicted. We are fighting for our rights, carrying guns fighting to protect our fathers’ land. What we are suffering from is marginalization, slavery, oppression. We accept the peace, and are ready to lay down our arms, so the amnesty itself is just a mix of language.”
Gen. Loaf says MEND and other groups in the area are asking the government to clarify its use of the word “amnesty” because it was not part of the discussions that led to the peace negotiations.
President Yar'Adua came to power in 2007, promising efforts to bring peace to the Niger Delta, where five decades of oil exploitation has yielded almost no benefits for poor communities
The Nigerian government said Friday the amnesty program will run from August 6 through October 4 and offer unconditional pardon to militants who end their violent campaign against the region's oil industry.