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Nigeria militants declare cease-fire

The indefinite truce by the Niger Delta's main rebel group boosts hopes for peace in the oil-rich region.

October 26, 2009|Associated Press

ABUJA, NIGERIA — Nigeria's main militant group declared an indefinite cease-fire Sunday, raising the prospect of peace in the oil-rich Delta region after nearly three years of hostilities have crippled production.

Though the group has declared cease-fires before, this indefinite truce has greater significance because it comes soon after several high-profile militant commanders agreed to take part in a government amnesty to disarm.

Last week, Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua met with longtime militant leader Henry Okah, which the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta says led to its decision to declare the latest cease-fire.

The militant group's shift in position comes after the government "expressed its readiness to engage in serious and meaningful dialogue with every group or individual towards achieving a lasting peace in the Niger Delta," Jomo Gbomo, MEND spokesman said Sunday.

State oil companies reacted positively to the development.

"That's good news. This is what we want to hear and what we are looking for," Levi Ajuonuma, spokesman for state oil company Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., told the Associated Press on Sunday

Nigeria's oil minister and several other government officials did not respond to repeated phone calls Sunday.

The unrest in the delta region had cut Nigeria's oil production by about a million barrels a day, allowing Angola to overtake the country as Africa's top oil producer.

Nigerian officials say that more than 8,000 militants have taken part in the amnesty program that began in August.

The militants want the government to send more oil money to the southern region, which remains poor despite five decades of oil production.

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