Nigerian leader holds inconclusive talks to halt oil attacks

By Michelle Faul, Associated Press

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari held inconclusive talks Tuesday aimed at halting attacks that have slashed the country's oil production, raising fears of more militancy, civil society leaders said.

 

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari held inconclusive talks Tuesday aimed at halting attacks that have slashed the country's oil production, raising fears of more militancy, civil society leaders said.

The militants responsible for most of the attacks, the Niger Delta Avengers, were not represented and dissociated themselves from Niger Delta representatives they called corrupt. International oil companies and state governors also attended.

Representatives of the southern oil-producing region wanted the government "to commit to some credible process of dialogue," said Ledum Mitee, secretary of the Niger Delta Forum.

Instead, Buhari said he would consider what they said, align that with a report expected from security agencies and then make an "appropriate response," Mitee said.

A statement from the president's office said he would consider the reports and then "we will revisit the situation to ensure that we succeed this time."

Buhari insisted that Niger Delta leaders had more to do than anyone else to bring peace, given the "influence they have on militant groups." That ignored the Avengers' condemnation of those leaders.

The two sides had agreed to a truce that neither has honored. Nigeria's military continues punishing raids that Mitee said often target entire communities. The Avengers on Oct. 20 blew up a subsea pipeline, declaring they had crippled exports from U.S. Chevron's Escravos terminal. Two other terminals that were attacked have not exported for months.

The president last month claimed the militants are "sponsored by economic looters" — referring to allegations they are backed by politicians in the mainly Christian south, home to former President Goodluck Jonathan, who voted against Buhari, a northern Muslim, in 2015 elections.

In Houston, the U.S. oil capital, Buhari declared last month that constituencies that gave him 97 percent of votes "cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5 percent."

Attacks this year have cut up to a million barrels a day from the usual 2.2-million-barrel production, throwing Africa's biggest economy into recession.

The Avengers are demanding that oil multinationals leave the region, noting decades of careless production has destroyed fishing grounds and agricultural fields and brought nothing but misery to residents.

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