'10,000 rebels could get amnesty'

ABUJA: Up to10,000 militants in the troubled Niger Delta could benefit from an amnesty offered by the Nigerian government aimed at ending attacks which have crippled the country's oil industry, a top official overseeing the amnesty said Friday.

"We are working in the region of about 10,000 militants," the chief coordinator of the amnesty implementation committee, Air Vice Marshal Lucky Ararile, told a press conference.

He said the militants were in between 50 and 60 camps in Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Edo, Ondo and Akwa Ibom states.

Each militant will receive an allowance of 20,000 naira (135 dollars) per month in addition to 1,500 naira per day for food while at a reintegration centre, he said.

"Disarmament and demobilisation part of the programme will last 60 days. Thereafter, the reintegration programme is indeterminate," Ararile said.

He said a "few" militants had already surrendered their arms. He declined to give a specific figure.

President Umaru Yar'Adua has announced an amnesty running from August 6 until October 4 for all those who are prepared to lay down their arms and embrace peace.

Many armed militant groups exist in the volatile region. The groups are demanding a fairer share out of Nigeria's oil wealth.

Henry Okah, a leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), who was facing treason charges, was released from jail on Monday as part of the amnesty deal.

In response, MEND declared a 60-day truce in its "oil war" which has seen oil production cut by more than 30 percent over the past three years.