NIGER DELTA Avengers said its fighters on Tuesday took out an oil export pipeline operated by Chevron at Escravos. Two months ago when the dialogue was muted, the NDA had openly said it won’t honour the invitation arguing that the Federal Government’s intention was anything but genuine. However, the Avengers halted its persistent attacks on the oil and gas installation saying that it was a demonstratuion of its resolve to give the government a chance to approach its legistatimate leaders. But on Tuesday it struck. “This action is to further warn all international oil companies that when we warn that there should be no repairs pending negotiation/ dialogue with the people of the Niger Delta, it means there should be no repairs,” Niger Delta Avengers spokesman Mudoch Agbinibo said in a statement. The Avengers hit the scene early this year, claiming that it is fighting for a greater share of the oil wealth from Nigeria. But its claim was immediately debunked by government officials who asserted that it some disgruntled elements that had come under fire in the anti-corruption war were deploying them to fight back. Nonetheless, some elements including some leaders of the Niger Delta have been in various stages of peace talks with the government since July, but it seems little have been achieved. The government in particular has been desperate to negotiate with the group because of the adverse effect the activities of the Avengers was having in the economy. For instance, Nigerian crude oil production had been suppressed by conflict early this year, though the latest data from OPEC finds recovery was underway. Total crude oil production last month was around 1.52 million barrels per day, according to secondary sources, which was about 7 percent higher than the previous month, though still about 20 percent less than it was last year. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, said it lost out on hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil due to unrest and banditry during the first five months of the year. Even then, the 2016 budget that was based on the production of around 2.2 million bpd, has suffered somersault and the government is unable to meet many of its projection. It has affected payment of salaries as federal agencies struggled to meet their monthly obligations to staff. The worst off has been the private sector. Many companies have closed shops, and the few still functioning are having hard times staying afloat and a good lot have fallen behind in the payment of monthly salaries of staff. The shortfall in production has prompted Nigeria to seek an exemption from a proposed production ceiling coordinated last month by OPEC members. Its economy has flirted with recession amid the dual strains from militants and lower crude oil prices. Oil contributed about 10 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. The Niger Delta Avengers added that any further efforts by the government to mediate as a distraction to allow for the resumption of crude oil exports would halt any further efforts at negotiation. Friday Magazine recalls that in August, the Niger Delta Avengers had tied its blowing up of pipelines to production problems, but left a vista for some form of collective negotiations. Though it accuses President Muhammadu Buhari’s government of favouring oil and gas interests over the interests of the people in the Niger Delta, the group insisted it was open to genuine efforts to address the problem. Nonetheless, its campaign remained the main source of blamed as its activities pushed Nigeria’s total crude oil production to a 30-year low this year. We recall then that spokesman for the group, Mudoch Agbinibo, had said the narrative so far has been biased, though it was ready to support “any collective negotiation team” led by elders from the Niger Delta, the multinational oil companies present in the region, the government in Abuja and international mediators. Mediation should “be focused on achieving the short-, medium- and long-term frameworks and objectives to de-escalating conflicts in the Niger Delta,” he said. Among the benchmarks for a resolution offered was The Kaima Declaration, a document from the late 1990s calling for respect for indigenous interests and protection for the Niger Delta region from damage associated with years of oil and gas exploitation. Amnesty International describes the Niger Delta as one of the most polluted places in the world. The advocacy group singled out Royal Dutch Shell in particular, blaming the company for at least 130 different oil spills in the region last year. The Nigerian government at one point this year suggested a truce was brokered with militant groups, but the Niger Delta Avengers at the time said there was no negotiating structure in place.

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