- Government said it would scale back military toward dialogue
- Violence has cut Nigeria’s crude output to lowest in 27 years
A Nigerian insurgent group which has claimed attacks on oil facilities that have slashed Nigeria’s output to the lowest level in 27 years said it’s not in talks with the government, a day after the authorities said they were preparing for dialogue.
“If the government is discussing with any group they’re doing that on their own,” the group called the Nigeria Delta Avengers said Wednesday in a post on Twitter from an account claiming to represent them and whose authenticity couldn’t be confirmed by Bloomberg.
The government said on Tuesday military operations would be scaled back in parts of the oil-rich Niger River delta where oil facilities have come under attack as it works with regional governors toward talks with militants. The decision was taken at a meeting between governors from states in the region, security officials and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, according to a statement from the presidency.
Producers in Nigeria are facing a renewed wave of violence in the delta region that accounts for most of the country’s crude. Nigeria’s output dropped to the lowest in almost three decades as armed groups intensified attacks to rupture pipelines in recent months. Total volume of crude shut due to the violence range from 700,000 to 800,000 barrels per day, according to the state-owned oil company.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Forcados and Bonny export terminals as well as Eni SpA’s Brass River are under force majeure, a legal clause that allows companies to miss shipments due to circumstances beyond their control. The Escravos terminal is delaying shipments after attacks against facilities operated by Chevron Corp., while a force majeure for Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Qua Iboe terminal was lifted last week.
The Niger Delta Avengers claimed a new attack on Wednesday morning. In a separate tweet, they said they had blown up a well belonging to Chevron Corp. in Warri. The company couldn’t immediately be reached for comment by Bloomberg News.
Presidential spokesman Shehu Garba declined to comment on the NDA’s tweet about talks. Calls to spokesmen from the army, the petroleum minister and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corp. were not immediately returned.
At the meeting in Abuja, the capital, on Tuesday, the government decided to “to de-escalate military operations directly in communities,” Delta state Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was quoted as saying in the presidency’s statement. The security forces must “ensure that they adequately man the waterways while we engage the communities, and that engagement process starts any moment from now.”
The attacks in the delta started in February after President Muhammadu Buhari, who won an election last year on an anti-graft campaign, ended contracts to protect oil facilities with militant commanders and slashed monthly stipends paid to fighters that the previous government approved to end a similar uprising in 2009.
Troops are faced with the challenge of protecting pipelines that run through a warren of interconnected rivers and mangrove swamps in the 70,000-square-kilometer (27,027 square-mile) region.
“We have taken a lot of decisions which we think will help us to mitigate what is going on currently in the states, particularly in Delta and Bayelsa,” Okowa said. “We are going to find a solution very soon.”