Militants operating in the oil-rich Niger Delta have been offered an unconditional pardon in exchange for disarmament and rehabilitation as part of efforts to bring peace to the area.

Under the amnesty, which came into effect on 6 August and will last until 4 October, militants will receive 130,000 naira to cover food and living expenses during the two-month rehabilitation programme. However reports suggest that on the first day of the amnesty only a handful of soldiers showed up at weapons collection points to hand in their guns while some militant groups, including the leading Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), appeared divided over whether their members would be taking part.

Around 10,000 militants are thought to be hiding out in the southeastern coastal region where they attack oil facilities and infrastructure, disrupting production and supplies. Supporters of the amnesty say it is the strongest chance yet for Nigeria to end the violence and therefore to remove one of the main obstacles to its development as an oil-producing country. However critics argue that at best the pardon represents only a short-term solution to the problem and that the deeper issues of environmental degradation and the poor distribution of oil wealth need to be addressed if a lasting peace is to be established.

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