President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the military to suspend operations in the Niger Delta for two weeks to create a window for dialogue with militants.
Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, disclosed this in Abuja, yesterday, just as he said that a committee to negotiate with the militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, that has been involved in the destruction of oil installations in the Niger Delta region has been inaugurated.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who said this in Abuja, explained that the move was aimed at halting the deadly attacks which had made Nigeria’s oil production plummet to 1.5 million barrels per day.
According to him, the team that will engage the militants will be coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser.
He said other members of the team included himself, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru as well as selected leaders, kings and influential individuals from the Niger Delta.
Kachikwu said, “The President has appointed a team led by the NSA and I serve in one of those, to begin the process of a very intensive dialogue with those caught in the middle of this. I am sure that in the ensuing one week the intensity of that dialogue will wrap up.
“The NSA is going to be working with the various arms of the armed forces to descale the intensity of military intervention in the area within a week or two so that dialogue can take place. We are making contacts with everybody who is involved, the ones that we can identify, through them, the ones that we can’t identify so that there is a lot more inclusiveness in this dialogue. Our prayer is that this works so that we resort to dialogue rather than use of force.”
On the loss recorded as a result of the attacks by the Niger Delta Avengers, Kachikwu said, “Over the last two months, we have probably lost about 600,000 barrels from various attacks of militants in the area. In terms of production, we are roughly at about 1.5 million to 1.6 million barrels a day, down from 2.2mbd which is the basis of this year’s budget and if peace reigns, obviously between now and August we will be able to recover substantial portion of this production so that the budget doesn’t suffer