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Nigerian President Yar'Adua to Meet Militant Leaders Friday

By Peter Clottey
09 October 2009

Nigeria's President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua is scheduled to meet today (Friday) with militant leaders from the Niger Delta in the capital, Abuja.

The meeting is a follow up dialogue after the militants accepted the government's amnesty deal.

Earlier in June, President Yar'Adua granted amnesty to Niger Delta militants and urged them to lay down their weapons.

Some militants, including those from the much dreaded Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) surrendered their weapons before the October 6th deadline.

The militants' attacks and kidnappings in the oil-rich Niger Delta have significantly undermined Nigeria's oil production.

Attorney Uche Onyeagucha who represents militant leader Tom Akete said that people in the Niger Delta want to know the president's plan for the region.

"I believe the expectations of the leaders of the people of the Niger Delta will be to know what the president has in stock for them. What is he putting on the table to enable them decide whether things will move forward or not," Onyeagucha said.

He said controlling the Niger Delta's resources should be part of the agenda.

"I am sure the people are going to expect that the question of controlling a greater share of the resources from their land will be put on the table among other issues that border on the development of the region," he said.

Onyeagucha said residents in the Niger Delta are willing to cooperate with the president.

"A good number of people are feeling that President Yar'Adua should be given a chance to put his own cards on the table as to what his solution to the problems of the people of the Niger region is," Onyeagucha said.

He said his client Tom Akete is determined to move the process forward.

"He has had the opportunity of meeting Mr. President twice and the concrete issues will be hammered out in the meeting today," he said.

Onyeagucha said expectations are high in the Niger Delta to know how the government will act on their demand.

"The expectation is full of several baskets of what they expect that the president is going to do for the people of the Niger Delta; addressing the issues of environmental degradation, resource control, good governance in the region, addressing the issues of improving the standards of living and job creation," Onyeagucha said.

He denied the government has pumped too much money into the Niger Delta.

"I wouldn't know how much money they think that has been put in so far because if you may remember all the period during the regime, the percentage of the resource… that was put in the area about 1.5 percent, which was later increased to three percent…since the civilian regime…it is just 13 percent," he said.

Onyeagucha wondered why the government has refused to allow the Niger Delta to control 50 percent of the total oil wealth in the region.

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