Leaders from Nigeria’s Niger Delta called on President Muhammadu Buhari to pull the army out from the oil hub, order oil firms to move headquarters there and spend more on development to end militancy in the region. Buhari met leaders from the southern swampland for the first time since militants started a wave of attacks on oil pipelines in January 2016 to push for a greater share of oil revenues.
At the meeting in the presidential villa in Abuja, Niger Delta leaders, joined by representatives of militant groups, gave Buhari a list of 16 demands to pacify the impoverished region where many say they do not benefit from the oil wealth…
The delegation leader said oil firms should move headquarters to the region so unemployed youths – who often work for militants – could get more jobs. Foreign firms active in Nigeria are often based in the commercial capital Lagos. The Niger Delta leaders also asked for more funds for the development and an amnesty plan for former fighters which Buhari had planned to cut.
The attacks, which put four key export streams under force majeure, had led production to plunge to 1.37 million barrels per day in May, the lowest level since July 1988, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), from 2.2 million barrels in January 2016.
Nigeria agreed on a ceasefire with major militant groups in 2009 to end an earlier insurgency. But previously unknown groups have since taken up arms after authorities tried to arrest a former militant leader on corruption charges. Under a 2009 amnesty, fighters who lay down arms receive training and employment. However, of the $300 million annual funding set aside for this, much ends up in the pockets of “generals” or officials, analysts say – an endemic problem in a country famous for graft.
Any ceasefire would be difficult to enforce as militants are splintered into small groups of angry, young unemployed men even their leaders struggle to control.
A major group, the Niger Delta Avengers, had initially declared a ceasefire in August 2016 but then claimed another attack in October 2016 .
Excerpts from Niger Delta leaders want army out, Reuters, Nov. 2, 2016