Nigeria in ‘frank’ talks with Mend

Nigeria’s president has held talks with former rebel leaders in the oil-rich Niger Delta in a bid to end the conflict in the region, his spokesman said.

Olusegun Adeniyi said on Sunday that Umaru Yar’Adua’s meeting with the ex-chiefs of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or Mend, was “frank and fruitful”.

The president “used the session to reiterate his commitment to the overall peace and development of the Niger Delta,” Adeniyi said.

He said Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s Nobel prize-winning author, also took part in  the talks.

Greater oil share

Mend has waged a violent campaign against oil facilities in the Delta for more than three years, saying it wants a greater share of oil wealth for its communities.

Mend, represented at the talks by Henry Okah et Farah Dagogo, said in a statement that the two hours of talks were “frank, cordial and useful”.

“This meeting heralds the beginning of serious, meaningful dialogue between Mend and the Nigerian government to deal with and resolve root issues that have long been swept under the carpet,” the statement read.

Rebel activities have reduced Nigeria’s oil output by about a third, from 2.6 million barrels a day in 2006 to about 1.7 million.

In June, Yar’Adua decided to offer an amnesty which led to the surrender of arms by Mend fighters.

Although the group did not take part in the amnesty, it did declare an indefinite ceasefire on October 25 to allow talks to go ahead.

[original]

spotted by RS

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