, ABUJA, Nigeria, June 7 – Nigeria is planning peace talks with militants in the oil-producing south to end attacks that have slashed output, junior oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu has said.
The military has deployed gunboats and fighter jets to the creeks of the Niger delta to hunt down the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), blamed for a string of attacks since February.
But Ibe Kachikwu said late on Monday: “Probably, we will suspend the operations of the military in the region for a week or two for individuals in the creeks to converge for the dialogue.”
President Muhammadu Buhari was “interested in dialogue and has mandated the military to halt actions for about two weeks to ensure a team that will be led by the national security adviser dialogue with the militants to ensure peace in the region.”
The NDA has attacked facilities operated by subsidiaries of Shell, Eni, US firm Chevron, and the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which Kachikwu also heads.
He said attacks have cut output to 1.6 million barrels per day, well below the budgeted-for 2.2 million bpd.
Kachikwu said the government was determined to restore “genuine peace in the region where oil production has been significantly hurt by the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers”.
He urged the militants to accept the government truce offer.
“The avenue is open for them, provided the militants are willing to embrace dialogue and allow truce to reign,” he said.
The Avengers are believed to have sympathy with a former oil rebel leader active in the region in the 2000s and who is now wanted on money laundering and corruption charges.
They have also pressed for self-determination for the Niger delta region but maintain their activities are only targeting oil installations rather than the personnel or the military.