Community leaders in Nigeria’s oil-rich south on Monday urged militants, especially the Avengers, not to resume attacks on pipelines but give peace talks with the government another chance.
The Niger Delta Avengers group last week threatened to resume its targeting of oil and gas infrastructure that in 2016 led to a slump in output that helped tip Nigeria into recession.
But Edwin Clark, the head of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) set up last year to chart a way forward with the government, said they should be patient.
The government may have so far failed to act on a list of 16 recommendations to revive the region “but we… are not expecting that everything will be done in one year”, he added.
“We are therefore appealing to the people of PANDEF and the people of Niger Delta that the Niger Delta Avengers… should reconsider their decision to resume hostilities,” he said.
“Let us give the federal government another chance,” he was quoted as telling the Vanguard newspaper.
– Trouble brewing –
Trouble has been brewing in the swamps and creeks for months at the lack of progress on reforms, which includes cleaning up oil spills to the construction of a maritime university.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has led a charm offensive in the region to calm rising tempers, at a time when Nigeria needs oil revenue to help boost its fragile economic recovery.
PANDEF itself had earlier issued a November 1 ultimatum to pull out of talks but in August withdrew the threat after meeting Osinbajo.
But frustration both with the talks and those leading them remains.
“But be that as it may, our primary concern remains that there must be no hostility,” PANDEF coordinating secretary Alfred Mulade told AFP.
Judy Asuni, the coordinator of the Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact Group, said it was “ridiculously unnecessary for the boys to resume attacks”.
The PANDEF talks were “better than nothing”, she added.
Malte Liewerscheidt, senior Africa analyst at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said the Avengers’ threat still needed to be taken “very seriously”.
The group claimed 17 attacks in 2016 in an area west of Warri, in Delta state, between the Benin and Forcados rivers.
“It is highly likely that any potential future assaults will take place within the same area, which includes the important Escravos oil export terminal,” he said.