Nigeria militant amnesty program faces cash crunch, says official

YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigeria’s amnesty program which provides vocational training and stipends to former militants who attacked oil facilities in its Niger Delta energy hub is struggling with a shortfall of funds, a special adviser to the president said.

The government has been in talks with militants to end the attacks which 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. It has since climbed.

Under the amnesty program, each former militant is entitled to 65,000 naira ($213.68) a month plus job training

“The main challenges the Presidential Amnesty Office has faced is inadequate funds,” Paul Boroh, special adviser to the president and coordinator of the amnesty program, said late on Thursday. His comments were sent to journalists on Friday.

Boroh said the funding problems meant the tuition fees of some ex-militants in local and international universities had not been paid. He added that most vocational training had stopped, affecting 1,770 participants.

“Inadequate funding has also limited the capacity of the office to empower delegates and exit them from the program,” said Boroh. But he said the situation was “being reversed” with the release of more funds to the amnesty office.

He did not say when the funds would be released.

The damage from attacks on Nigeria’s oil industry has exacerbated a downturn in Africa’s largest economy, which slipped into recession in 2016 for the first time in 25 years, largely due to low oil prices.

Crude oil sales make up around two thirds of government revenue.

Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Edmund Blair