Nigerian Army Says Insecurity in Niger Delta is Over
Nigerian Army Says Insecurity in Niger Delta is Over

The Nigerian military says the oil-rich Niger Delta has returned to normal after years of attacks that crippled the country's oil industry and created widespread insecurity.

The Nigerian military spokesman in the Niger Delta, Timothy Antigha, says a four-month ceasefire  has re-established stability in the troubled southern oil-producing region.

"Nigerians and foreigners have for the past three to four months been going about their normal business without any fear of insecurity," he said. "So to that extent the JTF [Joint Military Task Force] has achieved tremendous results in terms of ensuring that there is a return to normalcy in terms of security. So things are back to normal and people are going about their business without any fear of insecurity."

In June, President Umaru Yar'Adua offered amnesty to militants in the Niger Delta.  It was aimed at ending years of fighting in the region that has cost Africa's top oil exporter billions of dollars in lost revenue.

More than 8,000 gunmen gave up their weapons and accepted the amnesty offer. Insecurity has long plagued Nigeria's oil industry, with the local communities in the delta angry at their continued poverty despite five decades of oil extraction.

The army says while it welcomes the ceasefire, its strategy of fighting a network of criminal gangs involved in crude oil theft in the Niger Delta remains unchanged.

Oil industry executives say the security situation remains very fragile despite a recent decline in violence. Already, some repentant militants are angry over the non-payment of allowances and have threatened to renew violence if their allowances were not paid.

The government says the amnesty is the first step to bring peace to the region and has outlined development plans for the Niger Delta.

Nigeria derives more than 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings from crude oil sales.