President Muhammad Buhari has constituted a high powered committee to begin an intensive dialogue with aggrieved Niger Delta militants. The federal government will also reduce military operations in the region to allow dialogue with the militants and other aggrieved individuals. Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja as part of an update on the security challenges in the oil industry.
Recent attacks by the Niger Delta Avengers have reduced Nigeria’s oil production from 2.2 million barrels per day to 1.6 million. The Nigerian Army had recently said dialogue with the group was not yet a realistic option because there was no sign that the militants were ready for dialogue. Kachikwu, however, said the dialogue team which would be led by the National Security Adviser, retired Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno, has the service chiefs comprising Chief of Defence Staff and heads of the army, Navy, himself and Minister of Niger Delta as members.
“That list is basically in the working, what His Excellency has done is put a list of forerunners who will now sit down and begin to say who else should be co-opted in this. It is still work in progress,” the minister said.
He added that efforts were being made to create an integrated platform that involves representatives of the various communities in the region who would also engage the militants.
The minister further revealed that the intensity of military presence in the area would be reduced for a week or two for the dialogue to take place.
“My first appeal will be to my brothers who are engaged in these acts of protest to sheath their sword and dagger and get back to the table so that we can have conversation as Nigerians,” Kachikwu said.
“The president is very interested and has mandated that we should use every available opportunity to dialogue this issue and find a quick closure of this matter and this government is very committed to a long term solution to the issues that have bothered this geographical space for quite a while,” Kachikwu added.
Earlier yesterday before Kachikwu’s news conference, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, at a meeting with a delegation of the European Union (EU) led by its Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr. Michel Arrion, said the federal government was beefing up security in view of the current militancy in the Niger Delta.
Osinbajo said at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja that government was engaging leaders and people of the Niger Delta on the spate of attacks on oil installations in the area. According to him, besides reaching out to people in the area, the government was also beefing up security.
He said the government was working to minimise the losses arising from the attacks.
He said the focus of the Buhari presidency was to ensure that the man on the street in the Niger Delta receives the benefit from all that is available there.
He also called on the leaders in the region to be accountable to the people. Arrion said his delegation visited Osinbajo as a follow-up on President Buhari’s meeting with EU leaders during his visit to the continent.