Nigeria resumed payments to former militants in the oil-rich Niger River delta and the military targeted gangs involved in sabotage of pipelines, as the government responded to sustained attacks on infrastructure that dragged crude production back to an almost 30-year low.
Paul Boroh, coordinator of the presidential amnesty program, told former militants that their delayed stipends would resume on Monday, his office said in an e-mailed statement. He also assured them that “President Muhammadu Buhari appreciates their patience” and attaches much importance to the amnesty, according to the statement.
Nigeria’s government is trying to engage militants and other stakeholders to establish a cease-fire, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Emmanuel Kachikwu said in a meeting broadcast on state television. Oil production has dropped to 1.4 million barrels a day, he said, close to the May average that was the lowest since 1989.
After several years of relative calm, Nigeria’s oil wells and pipelines are being blown up again by a rebel group that says it wants to expose corruption and earn justice for impoverished local communities. Attacks resumed after Buhari ended security contracts and payments that had turned earlier militants into protectors. The return of violence has worsened economic problems in Nigeria, where oil accounts for two-thirds of government revenue and almost all exports.
Talks between the government and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta started last week, but the group claiming responsibility for the bombing of pipelines and platforms this year — the Niger Delta Avengers — did not take part in the discussions. Nigerian military aircraft attacked hideouts in the creeks used by criminal gangs that steal refined petroleum products near the commercial capital, Lagos, Rabe Abubakar, Defence Headquarters spokesman, said by phone from the capital, Abuja Monday.
The interruption of the policy of amnesty payments to rebels had been temporary, Boroh said. “The hiccups in the payment of their stipends are already being addressed” and Buhari has promised to invest heavily in the region, he said in the statement.