Nigeria: Negotiations with Niger Delta militants have begun – Govt

*Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu

*Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

15 June 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Federal Government has disclosed that it has finally begun negotiations with the militant groups including the Niger Delta Avengers, which have been blowing up oil and gas facilities in the oil-rich swamps of the Delta.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who disclosed this during a live broadcast on television noted that negotiations among the parties was the only path to sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.

According to Kachikwu, talks with the Niger Delta Avengers are “currently taking place and have begun to yield fruits.”

He added that, “We’re engaged in negotiations because that’s the solution. I have appealed to them for us to find peace this week and be able to enter a truce relationship that stops all the destruction.

“There’s no theatre in the world where conflicts are being resolved through battle. It doesn’t matter who’s right, who’s wrong.”

Nigeria’s oil output sank to the lowest in almost three decades as armed groups blew up oil and gas pipelines. Total volume of crude shut due to the violence ranges from 700,000 to 800,000 bpd, according to the state-owned oil company.

The militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, said on Monday it would consider negotiation with the government if independent mediators assisted.

After rejecting talks with the government last week, the militants said they would need “a genuine attitude and conducive atmosphere” in order to “commit to any proposed dialogue.” At the same time, they threatened to “review our earlier stance of not taking lives” in a statement posted on a group website.

The Federal government last week offered to hold talks with the group, which wants a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth to go to the impoverished Niger Delta region.

In a statement on its website, the Avengers said they wanted multinational oil companies operating in the country to “commit independent mediators to this proposed dialogue” to “bring about a lasting peace”.

“If need be we may review our earlier stance of not taking lives,” the statement said.

But while reconsidering its stand not to enter into talks with federal authorities, the group noted that it would only negotiate with the government under the right atmosphere and with the right attitude from the government team and international mediators.

The statement signed by ‘Brigadier General’ Murdock Agbinibo, the group’s spokesperson, however, said that until the framework for the proposed talks was agreed upon, all destroyed pipelines must remain unrepaired.

It noted that to show the NDA’s seriousness, two large vessels belonging to the oil companies would be sunk in the deep waters if the oil concerns flout the order not to carry out repairs or lift crude oil until after negotiations.

The NDA also vowed to renege on its vow not to shed any blood or take innocent lives if the federal government refuses to create the right atmosphere for discussions, noting that when the dialogue earnestly begins, all parties must keep to the conditions.

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