A militant group that claimed responsibility for several attacks on oil pipelines in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta has agreed to start a dialogue with the government. The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), however, said the federal government must meet the group's demands before a "genuine" dialogue aimed at ending renewed violence can take place.

"We want the federal government to commit members states of the multi-national Oil Corporations to commit independent mediators to this proposed dialogue," the group said in a statement on its website. It also warned against any reparation work on pipeline, oil and gas facilities damaged during attacks.

NDA claimed that if these conditions are not respected, the group will carry out further attacks on oil facilities and oil vessels and might review its "earlier stance of not taking lives".

NDA is the latest militant organisation to wage war against Nigeria due to perceived marginalisation in the Niger Delta. Attacks blamed on NDA forced Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell to close two plants, with the group vowing to bring the country's oil production down "to zero".

Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, has already been negatively affected by renewed violence in the area as oil production has dropped to 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd), from 2.2m bpd.

NDA's latest statement came days after Nigeria announced it would scale back its military presence in the Niger Delta in order to foster dialogue with militants and reduce attacks in the restive region.

On 12 June, former militant Government Ekpemupolo, or "Tompolo" as he is also known, urged NDA to engage in talks with the government. However, Tompolo, chief commander of the Movement For The Emancipation Of The Niger Delta (Mend), is suspected of being behind NDA, which some analysts believe is simply Mend with a new name.

The birth of militant groups in Niger Delta

Militant groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta region took hold in the early 2000s following the deterioration of people's living conditions blamed on the increase of oil-related activities by foreign exploration corporations. Tensions flared up in the local communities as some ethnic groups felt they were being exploited and did not benefit from the crude oil on their land.

The repeated oil spills that considerably damaged the environment and affected people's health further deepened the communities' frustrations. After being elected in 2015, Buhari extended a 2009 amnesty granted to 30,000 former militants in the area.

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