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Amnesty for ex-militants being sabotaged -Ateke Tom

Ateke Tom, who has joined the amnesty programme, said a protest in the capital last week by those claiming to be militants from the southern…

Ateke Tom, who has joined the amnesty programme, said a protest in the capital last week by those claiming to be militants from the southern Niger Delta was backed by politicians, with elections months away.

The Niger Delta Vigilante ex-chief claimed the protesters were youths “sponsored by politicians.”

“I am shocked that these people moved in a convoy of buses all the way from Bayelsa (in the south) to Abuja without being halted or even arrested by any of the nation’s security agencies,” he said in a statement.

Tom said that their trip to Abuja raised security concerns which the president should tackle and claimed the amnesty programme was being sabotaged.

“We suspect collusion with some persons in power,” he said in the statement which did not provide names and was published as a newspaper advertisement.

National police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu told AFP authorities had no reason to stop the protesters.

“Nigeria is a free country,” he said. “People have freedom to move about. They were not armed and so there was no reason to be suspicious of their mission.”

On Wednesday, about 1,000 people claiming to be ex-militants who last year laid down their arms under the government amnesty protested against their exclusion from a post-amnesty retraining programme.

The late president Umaru Yar’Adua granted amnesty to militants in the Niger Delta, who claimed to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenues, if they surrendered their arms between August and October last year.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who took over in May after the death of Yar’Adua, is from the Delta, and his ability to deal with unrest there could be a major test ahead of next year’s elections.

Violence by armed rebels in the Niger Delta region since 2006 has hit oil output, which has dropped in the OPEC member state to around a million barrels per day compared to 2.6 million barrels at peak production level.

Nigeria, one of the world’s largest oil exporters, derives more than 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings from crude.

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