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Nigeria Militant Will Accept Amnesty If Okah Is Freed


JULY 11, 2009, 11:50 P.M. ET


LONDON — A militant commander in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Friday condemned a recent sabotage on a Royal Dutch Shell PLC oil facility and said he was awaiting the release of leader Henry Okah to accept an amnesty.

The statement shows how militants in a conflict in the oil-rich region, which has contributed to the shutdown of 1 million barrels a day of oil, are now split over their next strategic steps.

In an interview late Friday, Busta Rhymes — a pseudonym for a Nigerian militant, not the American hip-hop artist — said the oil companies “are not paying us for their security. We are not their slave.”

But “we call for peace. We don’t want people to come and destroy and sabotage,” he said.

He was referring to an attack last week on Shell’s well head in the Cawthorne Channel 1 area, in the Eastern Delta. The commander, who is based close to the well head, said he had no involvement in the attack and that it had been sponsored by a group based in Delta State, in the Western Delta.

Jomo Gbomo, a spokesman for the main spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, claimed the attack on behalf of the movement and confirmed Busta Rhymes played no role in it.

Mr. Gbomo has outlined a two-pronged strategy where the movement refused an amnesty last month and has escalated attacks on oil companies but has also proposed bilateral negotiations with the government.

However, both Mr. Gbomo and Busta Rhymes consider Mr. Okah’s release — which his lawyer says could happen Sunday — as a key condition for peace.

“The amnesty will begin with Henry Okah released,” Busta Rhymes said. “Once Henry Okah is released, we will flash our promise that there is peace,” he added.

MEND leader Mr. Okah was extradited in 2007 from Angola and was until now on trial for treason.

Write to Benoit Faucon at [email protected]

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