Following weeks of sustained destruction of oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta by militant groups, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the military to suspend operations in the region for two weeks to allow for de-escalation of tension and avenue for dialogue with the aggrieved groups.
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, made this known on Monday in Abuja.
The minister said the president is determined to explore the dialogue option with a view to restoring genuine peace in the Niger Delta region, which has seen tension build up in the last two months owing to activities of the Niger Delta Avengers.
Amid an economic crises, the Avengers have made good their threat to bring the country to its knees as Nigeria’s oil production tumbled from 2.2 million barrels a day to about 1.6 million barrels.
Just last week, two oil firms operating in Nigeria said they lost 140,000 barrels of crude daily as a result of attack on their facilities by the militants.
At about $48 per barrel, the two operators lost an estimated $6.72 million (N1.3 billion) daily to the attacks.
Determined to put a stop to the nefarious activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, which is hurting the already bleeding economy, Mr. Kachikwu said President Buhari has mandated the military to halt actions for about two weeks to ensure a team that will be led by the NSA, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.) dialogues with the militants to ensure peace in the region.
While stressing that the president is genuinely interested in dialogue with the aggrieved militants, the minister pointed out that “The avenue is open for them, provided the militants are willing to embrace dialogue and allow truth to reign because we are going to involve key leaders from the region who have had previous experience in that area to play whatever role they can”.
Speaking at the handover ceremony of Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas to the Federal Ministry of Education, Kachikwu stated that the Federal Government was not just committed to securing oil and gas installations but the lives and property of people in the region.
According to Kachikwu, the Monguno team will consist of top officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, service chiefs and ministers from the Niger Delta.
The minister said the nation needed peace in oil production now than ever, given the circumstances currently facing the economy.
However, Kachikwu expressed hope that the dialogue would yield positive results and get Nigeria back to maximum production as the country was currently producing about 1.6mbpd, about 600,000 barrels, short of the 2.2mbpd production target of the 2016 budget.
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