While speaking to the German Ambassador to Nigeria on Thursday, President Buhari said that his administration was in dialogue with Niger Delta militants through oil companies and law-enforcement agencies to find a lasting solution to insecurity in the region. He added that the government was also reviewing the contents of the amnesty program it inherited from the previous administration which was suspended shortly before the resurgence of new militants in the affected region.
The spokesperson for the Movement for the Emancipation f the Niger Delta (MEND), Gbomo Jomo confirmed talks with the Nigerian government to end the attacks. “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) wishes to confirm that, indeed, it has been in preliminary talks with the Federal Government through oil companies and law-enforcement agencies as revealed by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, July 21, 2016,” they said. Although the largest and most prolific militant group before they were granted amnesty in 2013, MEND has not taken responsibility for an attack since 2013. In sharp contrast, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), formed earlier this year, has attacked tens of critical oil pipelines and infrastructure, reducing the country’s oil production to its lowest in 22 years. The Federal Government’s decision to begin negotiations with a redundant threat rather than the active one jeopardising the Nigeria’s economy is peculiar, and is not likely to lead to a solution to the imminent crisis for a number of reasons.
The Niger Delta Avengers have repeatedly denounced the MEND group, discrediting the sincerity of their motives and branding them as criminals in official statements. Moreover, several militant groups in the region have expressed their contention with having MEND as the voice of the negotiations. “We are not going to hand it over to MEND to constitute a team for us. If the government truly wants to dialogue, the grandstanding by the so-called MEND might be a clog. This is our position,” said the Ultimate Warriors, another militant group in the region. The NDA are not likely to accept any compromises that result from negotiations with MEND, despite its benefits. Not only because they do not recognise MEND’s authority to negotiate on their behalf, but also because they are recognised as criminals in the on going negotiations and as such, will not be granted amnesty if an agreement is reached.
The NDA just claimed responsibility for an attack on the NNPC pipeline in Akwa Ibom and may feel the need to make a statement in response to the government’s tactics to ‘divide and conquer.’ “We are warning NUPENG and PENGASSAN to leave all the oil fields and terminals in the Niger Delta because it will be dirty very soon. Foreigners are to leave too,” warned the NDA last week. The Federal Government’s negotiation with MEND is not likely to appease the NDA or lead to a cessation in the recent spate of attacks. Instead, it is more likely to aggravate attacks in the short term.