President Muhammadu Buhari has confirmed that his administration is talking to Niger Delta militants, via oil companies and law-enforcement agencies, to find a lasting solution to the insecurity in the region. Buhari said the government was studying the instruments of the 2009 amnesty programme inherited from the previous administration, with a view to carrying out undelivered commitments.
The Niger Delta, Nigeria’s main oil producing region, has experienced a bout of attacks on oil pipelines since the beginning of the year. Several militant groups, including the extremely active Niger Delta Avengers, have claimed responsibility for these attacks, which aim to pressure the federal government to further devolve regional control over the oil money.
Despite the region’s vast oil resources, the population suffers from a severe lack of public services, including schools and hospitals. Oil spills from oil installations and illicit tapping by local inhabitants have led to high levels of water pollution, posing health risks and threatening the livelihood of fishermen in the region.
Buhari’s administration appears to be backtracking on its decision earlier in the year to curtail payments to former militants, which has coincided with the recent spike in attacks. Under the 2009 amnesty programme, signed at the height of a long period of insecurity in the region, tens of thousands of militants gave up their arms in exchange of monthly stipends of up to $400.