ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria's main militant group called an indefinite cease-fire Sunday to encourage dialogue with the government, the group's spokesman said.
Jomo Gbomo, spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said the group's shift in position comes after the government "expressed its readiness to engage in serious and meaningful dialogue with every group or individual towards achieving a lasting peace in the Niger Delta."
President Umaru Yar'Adua met with longtime MEND leader Henry Okah on Oct. 19.
Gbomo said that after the meeting, Okah had "indicated the willingness of the government to negotiate" with MEND. The group has formed a team to negotiate, Gbomo said.
The cease-fire takes effect Sunday, Gbomo said in a statement.
The militants want the federal government to send more oil-industry funds to the southern region that remains poor despite five decades of oil production.
The militant group declared a 60-day cease-fire on July 15 after the government released Okah. In mid-September the group extended its cease-fire by one month, saying it hoped the truce would help facilitate talks with the government.
MEND called off the cease-fire on Oct. 16, but have not launched attacks.
The militants had been attacking oil installations, kidnapping petroleum company employees and fighting government troops since January 2006. The attacks from MEND and unrest in the Niger Delta region had cut Nigeria's oil production by about a million barrels a day, allowing Angola to overtake it as Africa's top oil producer.