Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has instructed the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to increase oil explorations in the country's north. NNPC managing director Maikanti Baru said this came at a time when the country's economy is being impacted by attacks on oil and gas pipelines in the oil-rich Niger Delta area, southern Nigeria.

"It is a very difficult time for us with all the leakages that we suffer, especially infractions on our infrastructure, in terms of pipeline vandalism and theft to be able to meet our obligations to the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC)," Baru said, according to the Vanguard website.

Buhari's instruction came as attacks blamed on the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) militant group, which emerged at the beginning of the year, have brought oil production to a 30-year low.

NDA, the latest militant group to wage war against Nigeria due to perceived marginalisation in the Delta, vowed to bring the country's oil production down "to zero".

Nigeria oil

Latest estimates by the NNPC suggested that oil production in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, increased to 1.9m barrels from 1.4m barrels a day.

Among other things, NDA is calling for the release of pro-Biafran leader Nnamdi Kanu and former securiy aide Sambo Dasuki, a greater share of oil revenues and the cessation of activities by foreign oil corporations in the Delta.

Earlier in July, Buhari confirmed talks with militants in the Delta are taking place in the Delta.

NDA, however, denied such claim and carried out an attack at a gas pipeline in Akwa Ibom state.

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 have 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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Niger Delta Avengers
The Niger Delta Avengers are the latest militant group to wage war against the Nigerian government, having accused the ruling party of marginalising people in the oil-rich Niger Delta Niger Delta Avengers/Facebook