Militant environmental group denies truce with Nigerian government

Environment | The Niger Delta Avengers are fighting to stop pollution caused by the region’s oil production
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/22/16, 08:49 am

ABUJA, Nigeria—The Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group that has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on oil and gas plants in the Niger Delta region, is denying reports it has reached a truce with the federal government. Nigerian officials say they are willing to negotiate with the group, but analysts argue talks will only encourage more militancy in the region.

A report Tuesday claimed Minister for Petroleum Resources Ibe Kachichukwu met with representatives from the Avengers and other militant groups at the Delta State Government House. The report said an agreed 30-day cease-fire would give Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari time to draft a solution for the region.

But the Avengers denied agreeing to a cease-fire and said people are falsely claiming to speak for the group.

“The NDA high command never remembers having any agreement on ceasefire with the Nigeria Government,” the group posted on Twitter, its primary communication source.

The Avengers publicly announced its insurgency in March and has vowed to destroy Nigeria’s economy if the federal government fails to meet its demands. The militants are fighting against poverty in the oil-rich state and pollution from oil spills. The militants’ activities so far have cut Nigeria’s oil production by half, to about 1.4 million barrels a day, and hampered the nation’s power supply.

“There is no task that is more important or closer to our hearts than ensuring that the peace that is enjoyed by the present administration in the Niger Delta is upturned,” the group wrote in a post on its website.

The Nigerian government has attempted to negotiate with the group, but the Avengers requested the presence of international mediators. While negotiations will help the federal government to better understand what the group wants, such meetings will only serve as an incentive for more militant groups to emerge in the long run, warned Sam Nwosu of the Council of Renewable Energy Nigeria.

“You can’t just be negotiating with any armed group that comes up whenever it feels like it,” Nwosu said. “It’s not something we’d want to keep doing all the time because you’re creating an avenue for other groups that are coming up for whatever reason.”

The long-term solutions partly lie in addressing the root causes of the problem, Nwosu said. Earlier this month, the federal government launched efforts to clean up oil spills in Ogoni land in the Niger Delta. But the other half rests in the government’s ability to communicate to the people its plans for the region. Such a move will help reduce the support militant groups receive from local communities, Nwosu added.

“They need to develop community-based organizations that can go down into the area and enlighten the rural people of the dangers of allowing armed militants to roam around and use their communities as hideouts,” he said. “If the people understand what the government wants to do for them, … you find out that the grassroots support these militants enjoy will be eroded.”

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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