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Nigeria's Ex-Militants Criticize Amnesty Implementation

Hundreds of Nigerian oil militants have turned in weapons in the creeks of the Niger Delta, three weeks before a 60-day amnesty period is due to expire. But many ex-militants say they are unhappy with the way they have been treated so far.

The Nigerian government had promised to give cash, job training and pardons to militants who turn in weapons, starting August 6. Each militant who agrees to disarm is to receive an allowance of around $135 a month plus $100 or so a month for food. The payments are to run for several months.

But several of the ex-militants say conditions at the disarming and rehabilitation camps are far from ideal.

A former militia leader, Edward Udjewe, who disarmed with nearly 200 of his fighters, describes some of the difficulties he and his men had endured at one of the camps in Bayelsa state since handing over weapons to the authorities.

He says when we got to the camp, what we were promised by the federal government is not what we are seeing. The boys are not well catered for. For example, there is no soap in the camp, he says. No clean water to drink. They say they want to rehabilitate us but you carried us to that kind of a place. It is as if you are taking us to jail, which is not correct, he said.

He also accused the government of favoring a few top militant commanders, while ignoring smaller groups such as his.

"They should be fair to all groups. What you did to that group you have to do to other groups. People are feeling bad," said Udjewe. "The commandants of some [militant] camps have been taken care of properly. I am in the camp with my boys. Since I got to the camp I have never seen any leader in the camp."

The amnesty grants immunity from prosecution to any militant who renounces violence before October fourth. Officials say as many as 10,000 militants who have sabotaged oil production in the restive Niger Delta could take advantage of the amnesty deal.

The last amnesty offer, in 2004, collapsed after rebels squabbled over disarmament payments and found no jobs waiting for them.

Nigeria's main militant group has rejected the program and vowed to resume attacks on the oil industry at the end of its ceasefire on Tuesday.