The federal government of Nigeria has ‘clashed’ with militants in the Niger Delta region over claims that there were ongoing peace talks between the two sides. This is about the third time that such a situation has arisen.
In June, the Nigerian government said it had agreed on a month-long ceasefire with the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the group came out to deny any such agreement and continued their attacks on oil installations in the southern Niger Delta region of the country.
The Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, a week ago said he had met with members of the group.That claim also received a swift rebuttal from the Avengers who used their website to refute the Minister’s assertion.
If we are to engage in any peace talks we made it clear that the international community must be part of it. The President knows our demands.
In the latest case, a statement from the presidency issued by the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari, Garba Shehu, read; ‘‘President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja said that his administration is talking to Niger Delta militants through oil companies and law-enforcement agencies to find a lasting solution to insecurity in the region.’‘
It goes on to quote the president as saying, ‘‘We understand their feelings. We are studying the instruments (of the amnesty). We have to secure the environment, otherwise investment will not come.”
The NDA in a response to the presidency’s statement accused Buhari of being insincere to the people of Nigeria and foreign allies. They said that the only condition that would bring them to the negotiation table was the involvement of the international community in any talks.
‘‘If we are to engage in any peace talks we made it clear that the international community must be part of it. The President knows our demands. So they should stop deceiving the international oil companies, the general public and the international community,’‘ their statement said.
Militants say they want a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth to go to the impoverished Delta region. Crude sales make up about 70 percent of national income and the vast majority of that oil comes from the southern swampland.
Nigeria, an Oil Producing and Exporting Country (OPEC), was Africa’s top oil producer until the recent spate of attacks pushed it behind Angola.
Pipeline vandalism has reduced oil production by 700,000 barrels a day, Maikanti Baru, the new managing director of state oil firm Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has said.