A Nigerian militant group engaged in an "all out war" for control of the country’s oil industry Wednesday declared a 60-day truce as part of a government amnesty deal.
“Effective, 0000 Hrs, Wednesday, July 15, 2009, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) will be observing a temporary ceasefire for a 60 day period,” Jomo Gbomo, the group’s spokesman said in a statement. The response from Nigeria’s military was positive, but muted. “It’s a welcome development, but we are continuing to do our normal assignment of maintaining law and order,” said Col. Rabe Abubakar, a spokesman for Nigeria’s military. MEND leader Henry Okah, who had been the group’s main arms smuggler, was arrested in September 2007 in the Angolan capital, Luanda. He was later extradited to Nigeria and was in prison until Monday.
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The ceasefire puts on hold MEND’s “all-out war” on the government. The group is demanding a fairer distribution of oil wealth in the Niger Delta. The group wants oil revenue reinvested in the region, instead of enriching those whom the militants consider corrupt politicians. Many of MEND’s attacks have been aimed at oil and gas installations in the region. Okah’s release had been a key demand of MEND before it accept any government amnesty offer. MEND’s statement said the group will put together a team of “wise men and women” to “convey our demands to government.” “A compulsory prelude to talks is the withdrawal of the military joint task forces from the Gbaramatu communities and the return of all the displaced persons back to their various homes,” Gbomo said. “Hopefully, the ceasefire period will create an enabling environment for progressive dialogue.”