A US envoy based in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial hub, has urged militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta region to cease attacks on oil facilities. Dehab Ghebreab, outgoing US deputy consul-general, said militants should address their grievances with the government, instead of bombing facilities.
"We strongly believe that it is important that Niger-Delta youths engage in meaningful dialogue with the government, for government to know their grievances," Ghebreab said.
"During this dialogue, it would become easier for the government to know what the issues really are and be able to solve them.''.
Ghebreab's comments came as attacks – blamed on a new group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) –considerably affected the country's oil industry, which accounts for more than 70% of government revenues.
Earlier in June, oil production dropped to 1.4 million barrels per day, from 2.2m bpd. Latest estimates by the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said production increased to 1.9m barrels as the region has not experienced attacks in the past two weeks.
Militants in Niger Delta
Militant groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta region took hold in the early 2000s following the deterioration of living conditions blamed on the increase of oil-related activities by foreign exploration corporations. Tensions flared up in local communities as some ethnic groups felt they were being exploited and did not benefit from the crude oil on their land.
The oil spills, which 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.
Attacks blamed on the group, which emerged earlier this year, have forced Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell to close two plants, with the group vowing to bring the country's oil production down "to zero".
President Muhammadu Buhari had been scheduled to travel to Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta, to discuss with regional leaders ways to tackle renewed violence in the region and to launch a clean-up operation in areas polluted by years of oil spills. The leader, however, cancelled the visit.
Just before the cancellation, IBTimes UK reported that a man suspected of belonging to the NDA warned the president's life would be in danger if he visited the Niger Delta.
Earlier this month, reports claimed the federal government had reached a 30-day truce with militants in the Niger Delta, including NDA members.