The amnesty scheme for former militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta region is set to end within the next two years, a spokesman for the programme, Owei Lakemfa said on Thursday.
“Under the programme that we have now, the amnesty scheme should end within two years, that is by 2018, all things being equal,” said Lakemfa.
A programme to ensure a gradual exit for about 30,000 ex-militants between now and 2018 is in progress, he added.
The amnesty scheme was introduced in 2009 after years of violence, including kidnappings and attacks on oil and gas installations, by militants demanding a fairer share of revenues for local people.
Despite the billions of dollars generated since the discovery of crude in Nigeria in the 1950s, most people live in dire poverty around the creeks and rivers of the delta region.
There has been uncertainty over the future of the scheme since President Muhammadu Buhari took office last May, with indications it would gradually be wound down.
Lakemfa said between 15,000 and 20,000 former militants were this year expected to end amnesty-funded vocational skills and academic programmes designed to integrate them back into society.
Some people on the amnesty scheme, particularly those studying abroad on government scholarships, have complained about not receiving their monthly stipends.
Nigeria’s economy has been hit badly by the global fall in oil prices since mid-2014, which has reduced government revenues and forced up inflation.
Strict foreign exchange controls have hurt businesses and made investors wary, reducing further the availability of cash.
The federal budget allocated N64 billion to the amnesty programme in 2015 but that figure has dropped to N20 billion this year.
One amnesty programme official, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We are hoping to raise more money for the programme through a supplementary budget.”