*MEND Fights on – More than 8,000 militants who laid down arms in Nigeria’s troubled oil hub have so far been registered but the number could double when the documentation is complete, officials said on Thursday.
Figures released by Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, spokeswoman of the government amnesty team, showed that as of Tuesday — two days after the amnesty deadline — 8,299 militants had been recorded in seven oil-producing states in the south of Nigeria.
It was previously thought there were at least 10,000 operating among the creeks of the Niger Delta, but a source close to the disarmament exercise told AFP the total number will surpass that as an estimated 6,000 are still to be registered.
“Over 6,000 militants are yet to be documented because there was a huge rush in the last two days of the amnesty. So, in all, the total number is likely to be above 15,000,” said the source who declined to be named.
Koripamo-Agary described the unconditional pardon of the fighters, whose violent activities played havoc with the international oil market, a “monumental success”.
Attacks on oil facilities in the past three years have reduced Nigeria’s oil output by a third and helped send oil prices sky-rocketing to last year’s record high of 147 dollars a barrel.
“One yardstick in measuring this success is the acceptance of the amnesty by all major militant leaders and camps across the Niger Delta,” she said.
She said the numbers of militants that accepted the amnesty offer were “so many that the capacity of the amnesty committee was pushed to its limits”.
However, some rebels have vowed to fight on.
A spokesman of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the region’s most sophisticated armed group, Wednesday dismissed the government amnesty programme as a “charade” and warned it would resume attacks on oil facilities once its ceasefire expires next week.
MEND, which says it is fighting for a greater local share of the region’s oil wealth, declared a 60-day ceasefire on July 15, and extended it by 30 days on September 15.
The leading militants who have surrendered their arms had links to the MEND.