Nigerian Army Arrests a Suspected Oil Delta Militant Leader

  • Army says Isaac Romeo arrested in southeast city of Calabar
  • Group has denied past government arrest claims on its website

Nigeria’s army said troops working with covert intelligence officers arrested a suspected leader of Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group that has claimed attacks that have cut almost half of the country’s oil output.

Isaac Romeo was arrested with two others when the car they were traveling in was stopped by security agents in the southeastern city of Calabar on Sept. 3, the army said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. “The arrest followed painstaking efforts and tracking of the militant,” army spokesman Sani Usman said in the statement.

The army’s arrest claim couldn’t be independently verified. The Niger Delta Avengers, which had in the past denied government arrest claims on its website, is yet to react to the military’s statement.

Nigeria lost an average of 1 million barrels of oil per day in the past six months, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said Wednesday. The attacks have caused government revenue, 70 percent of which usually came from oil exports, to plummet and have hurt the spending plans of President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected last year. This year’s budget was based on the estimated production of 2.2 million barrels daily.

“The arrest, if true, would be a significant breakthrough for the army but of doubtful impact in terms of ending attacks on oil facilities,” Chijioke Nwaozuzu of the Institute of Petroleum Economics of the University of Port Harcourt in the country’s southern oil hub said by phone. “The arrest of militant leaders, from past experience, may even lead to further attacks given that the group in question has called a cease-fire.”

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