The Niger Delta Avengers, which has restarted attacks on oil and gas installations in Nigeria’s volatile oil rich region, on Sunday claimed government’s lack of commitment to dialogue process was responsible for its renewed insurgency.
Since November 1 that President Muhammadu Buhari met with Niger Delta leaders at the State House in peace building efforts, the Avengers have attacked the Trans Forcados Export Pipeline in Delta State, the most recent spate of the group’s actions
But the Avengers said continued military action in the Niger Delta prompted the renewed attacks.
“Sincerely speaking, the High Command of the Niger Delta Avengers cannot be blamed for the continuous bombing of crude oil export pipelines and other oil installations, since the Government has been relentlessly carrying out military build ups to continuously harass communities and indigenes of the Niger Delta after the November 1st meeting of the PANDEF and President Muhammadu Buhari.
The militant group had in August expressed readiness for peace deal with President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, giving three conditions: multi-level involvement of relevant stakeholders, restructuring of Nigeria and cessation of military offensive.
Before that, the federal government had repeatedly asked the militants to embrace peace through dialogue even as it had to send troops to the Niger Delta to hunt down and counter balance militants in May.
But despite peace offers by both sides, Nigerian military continued to deploy troops and arms to the region, saying on September 6, it had to demonstrate capacity to protect civilians and facilities from “criminals and saboteurs”.
“We see this as a deliberate move by the military establishment to undermine any effort of dialogue and negotiations with the people of the Niger Delta,” said the militant group in the statement by its spokesperson, Mudoch Agbinibi.
NDA has carried out attacks on oil and gas installations, devastating Nigeria’s output and revenue.
The Avengers emerged months after former President Goodluck Jonathan lost his re-election bid last year, promoting allegations the insurgents have the former leader’s backing.
Earlier on Sunday, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, condemned and expressed disappointment at the spate of the renewed attacks, including the October 25 one on the Chevron Excravos pipeline.
Mr. Kachikwu was the architect of the meeting between Mr. Buhari and the Niger Delta leaders, and has consistently sought dialogue, rather than military offensive, as means to peace in the oil rich region.
But in its Sunday’s statement, NDA alleged the Buhari administration was not sincere with dialogue, warning “the path to sustain the cessation of hostilities in the region among fighters and structures cannot be achieved overnight, when there are clear cases of deliberate security surge by the Nigerian government.”
Seeking understanding on the side of the community leaders who engagement with Mr. Buhari, the group said it was “only reacting to government’s deliberate attempts to undermine the process to dialogue and negotiations.”
It asked Mr. Buhari to restrain the military from “engaging in activities that are inimical to the process, the people and communities of the Niger Delta” to make any peace initiate effective.
“We believed that our fathers, leaders and royal fathers are ready to meet the government of Nigeria with representatives of IOCs and the neutral observers but not with guns, warships and jet fighters terrorizing their communities which of course is one of the sixteen points key demands presented to Mr. President, So the government should stop the ostrich game,” it added.