03 June 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari cancelled his planned trip to Ogoni in River State on Thursday to inaugurate the commencement of clean up exercise of years of the oil spill in the community.
This is as militants under the name, Niger Delta Avengers, launched new attacks in the region on Thursday, vowing to bring Nigeria’s struggling oil industry to a total halt, and the president canceled a long-awaited visit to the region.
Presidency sources had noted that Buhari was looking forward to visiting the Niger Delta region for the first time since he became president to kick off the project, which was part of his inauguration day promises. But, the militants had warned that he should stay away from the region, adding that the president did not care about the Niger Delta people.
The army said militants killed six people on Wednesday when they ambushed a boat belonging to state oil firm NNPC in the Warri area.
Separately, the Niger Delta Avengers group said it had attacked two crude pipelines operated by Italy’s ENI.
“At about 2:00am today @NDAvengers blew up the Ogboinbiri to Tebidaba and Clough Creek to Tebidaba Crude Oil pipelines in Bayelsa State,” the group said on Twitter.
“This is in line with our promise to all international oil companies and indigenous oil companies that Nigeria oil production will be zero.”
The militants group has claimed responsibility for other recent attacks on Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell facilities. A wave of such attacks has helped drive the country’s oil output to a 20-year low.
President Buhari reportedly canceled at the last minute a visit planned for Thursday. No reason has been given for the cancellation of what would have been Buhari’s first visit to the region since taking office a year ago.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made the trip in Buhari’s place to launch a cleanup program in an area badly hit by oil spills, vowing to work with community leaders to end militant attacks.
“We are determined to put right the wrongs of the past, where the people of this land were treated unfairly and the environment unduly polluted and degraded,” Osinbajo said in a speech in the town of Bodo in the polluted Ogoniland area.
“The cleanup of this land will require change on the part of all those who deal with the Niger Delta environment – particularly the oil companies and our communities,” he said.
Western allies and local officials have told President Buhari that he needs to address poverty and oil pollution in the Niger Delta to stop the unrest.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, joined Osinbajo at the ceremony. He said the cleanup “cannot happen overnight” but he hoped the government, oil firms, and locals could work together to reduce pollution.