Program to Pacify Nigeria's Oil Delta Stalled by Corruption, its Boss Says

YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) — Projects aimed at preserving peace in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta by giving former insurgents jobs and training have stalled because corrupt officials are demanding kickbacks, the man in charge of the program said.

Under an amnesty program launched in 2009, former militants who laid down their weapons are entitled to stipends and training, an arrangement that has been crucial to maintaining relative stability in the region for a decade.

But Milland Dixon Dikio, who took over as administrator of the program a year ago, said hundreds of training projects had not taken place because he was battling corrupt officials within his own organization.

In a statement on Wednesday, he said a major agricultural project designed to train and employ 800 people and separate training projects in manufacturing, aviation and oil and gas were all stalled because of officials demanding bribes.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into the amnesty program since it was launched. One of Dikio's predecessors as administrator was sacked in 2018, with the government citing allegations of financial impropriety.

The delta, a vast wetland in the far south of Nigeria, has been home to a lucrative oil industry since the 1960s but still lacks decent roads, electricity and basic public services, a state of affairs that has fueled insurgency and criminality.

Before the amnesty program, the region had experienced years of full-blown conflict, with armed groups blowing up pipelines and flow stations, kidnapping oil workers and fighting the armed forces.

The amnesty ended the worst of the violence, although attacks resumed in 2016. The region remains volatile, with a major piracy problem in the Gulf of Guinea attributed to criminal gangs from the delta.

The Nigerian government said earlier this month that billions of dollars in funding aimed at developing the region had been lost over two decades by a separate organization, the Niger Delta Development Commission.

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