Nigeria’s House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament on Tuesday launched a probe into a lack of funding for an amnesty programme for militants in the country’s oil-producing heartland, a key factor in maintaining a tenuous peace in the Niger Delta and supporting crude production.
Failure to maintain funding for former militants under the 2009 amnesty could jeopardise the relative stability in the Delta and even result in oil production being choked off, as it was last year by militant attacks that cut crude output by as much as a third.
Nigeria’s House of Representatives will “investigate the circumstances leading to funding constraints affecting the amnesty programme, with a view to avoiding reoccurrence and report back to the House within two weeks for further legislative action,” it said in a motion.
It also said it would urge the finance minister to release the 15 billion naira ($49 million) set aside in the 2016 budget for the amnesty programme.
The finance ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The situation is becoming more serious … as tension and threats are already palpable in the Niger Delta Region and amongst the beneficiaries of the programme,” said the lower chamber.
Five months of arrears are owed to former militants, as well as education fees for students in Nigeria and overseas, it said.
Last month, former militant leaders in the Niger Delta urged the government to pay out delayed amnesty stipends or face protests.
The government is now in talks with militants to end the attacks that cut Nigeria’s output by 700,000 barrels a day (bpd) for several months last year, reducing total production at that time to about 1.2 million bpd.