Oil sector infrastructure in the Niger Delta is likely to remain safe for another year because President Buhari has extended the stipends paid to former militants for another year. On 9 October he read the 2021 Budget on the floor of the National Assembly and announced the provision of another ₦65 billion (US$169 million) for the payments next year. Recently there have been concerns that the government wanted to end the stipends which are used to maintain peace in the region. Most of the funds go to warlords who then dispense them to their restive forces in the creeks of the Niger Delta to reduce the incentive to attack oil infrastructure in the producing regions.
There is significant evidence that the payments have become a cesspool of corruption with most of the warlords personally profiting because they do not disperse all of the funds that they are supposed to. Despite this the government cannot maintain security in the creeks if the stipends are stopped. They are largely seen in government cycles as being a small price to pay in order to maintain oil production.
The public officials in charge of approving the payments in the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) also benefit from these amnesty stipends which are difficult to track or audit. In August, the president fired the former head of the agency, Charles Dokubo, and replaced him with a retired colonel, Milland Dikio, who says that he plans to streamline its operations and return it to its core focus. He wants to provide entrepreneurship training to the former militants so that they become less dependent on the government stipends.
The amnesty programme was originally established to help the militants acquire new skills that will enable them to become employable or self-employed. So far, however, this has largely not happened, and the stipends have become the main means of survival for many of the warlords and former militants. Reversing this trend will be challenging.