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Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 14:00 UK

Nigerian rebel in amnesty talks

Henry Okah
Henry Okah flew from South Africa to attend the meeting

The leader of one of Nigeria's last militant groups to maintain an armed struggle over oil money has held talks with President Umaru Yar'Adua.

A lawyer for Henry Okah - thought to control a faction of the Mend group - said he had met the president on Monday and "dialogue would continue".

A presidential spokesman confirmed the talks, describing them as "fruitful".

Most rebel groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta handed in their arms during an amnesty which ended earlier this month.

Mr Okah accepted the amnesty in July as a condition of being released from jail.

But fighters loyal to him have not disarmed and they officially ended a ceasefire last week - though there have been no attacks since.

The BBC's Ahmed Idris in Abuja said Mr Okah flew in from South Africa, where he was receiving medical treatment, for his meeting with Mr Yar'Adua.

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Mr Okah, who had been jailed for treason, was released from prison in the hopes of kick-starting a disarmament process.

His lawyer, Femi Falana, told the BBC that Mr Okah had accepted the amnesty on his release.

"It was on the basis of his acceptance of the amnesty that the criminal case involving him was terminated by government," he said.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) declared a ceasefire shortly after he was freed.

It extended the ceasefire by a month in mid-September, but said last week that there had been no progress on addressing the underlying problems in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

Mr Falana said a further agreement had taken place with Mr Yar'Adua on Monday to allow dialogue to continue.

'Stiff opposition'

The rebels say they are fighting for a fairer share of oil wealth for Delta residents, but have frequently resorted to killing and kidnapping, and fund their activities by stealing oil.

Residents of Okrika in Niger Delta, file image
The government says it wants to benefit the people of the delta

On Monday, it was reported that Nigerian officials plan to give 10% of the country's oil revenues to people in the Niger Delta - one of Mend's key demands.

The UK's Financial Times newspaper said the move could see more than 50bn naira ($338m; £207m) diverted to the communities in its first year.

But our correspondent says the government's proposals are likely to face stiff opposition from the regions outside the Delta, as it would mean less revenue for them.

At the moment the allocation of Nigeria's oil money is strictly governed by the constitution.



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