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Nigeria Militants Say Peace Depends on Amnesty

Nigerian militants say before they lay down their arms, they are waiting to see the details of the government's offer of amnesty to all groups fighting in the restive oil rich Delta region. They said two requirements are needed for peace in the area: a government pledge not to prosecute militants and the rehabilitation of all displaced people in the Delta.

Their comments follow a meeting between heads of security agencies and key leaders of militant groups in the coastal city of Port Harcourt. Onengiya Erekosima heads the group that facilitated the meeting,The Niger Delta Non–Violence Movement. He said militant leaders are ready to embrace peace, but they remain skeptical about the government's pledge of full amnesty.

"We are praying that they will be the messiahs that will grant genuine amnesty to the people," said Erekosima. "We just hope that the government will be sincere in what they are doing, and we believe that if that is done in less than six months, the Niger Delta will be one of the safest places on this earth for anybody to live in."

He said militants in the area are willing to disarm and cease attacking oil facilities and military personnel if the government takes concrete steps to reach out to them and give legal teeth to a pledge not to prosecute them for past offences against the state.

Some militants remain mistrustful of the government's sincerity in negotiating an end to the strife. "Corruption is destroying us," Erekosima said, "and our leaders are interested in keeping this corruption."

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.