Former militants and Nigerian government negotiate end to Niger Delta attacks

By Polycarp Kazaresam

A Nigerian former militant group said it has been conducting talks with the government to end a series of attacks on oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta. These attacks have damaged the country’s vital crude output.

On Thursday, President Buhari’s office announced that the government was using oil firms and security agencies to mediate with the militants and “find a lasting solution to insecurity in the region”.

Militants have said they want a greater share of Nigeria's oil wealth to go to the impoverished Delta region. Crude sales make up about 70 percent of national income and the vast majority of that oil comes from the southern swampland.

"The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) wishes to confirm that indeed it has been in preliminary talks with the Federal Government through oil companies and law-enforcement agencies," the government statement said.

MEND is a major former militant group. It signed an amnesty with the previous government in 2009, in exchange for cash and job training.

It said that the Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group that has claimed responsibility for a spate of recent attacks, will not be involved in the dialogue.

“The Federal Government made it clear during our meetings that a negotiation with criminals is out of the question," MEND said. "The Niger Delta Avengers...fall under this category."

The Niger Delta Avengers group had on Thursday said it was not aware of any talks with the government.

Security sources have connected the Avengers to former commanders in MEND. Both groups hail from the same area.
 

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