- As army claims militant leader’s arrest
United Kingdom has warned President Muhammadu Buhari that military action was not a solution to Niger Delta militants’ attack and advised him to address grievances in the Delta region where militants have been blowing up oil pipelines in a conflict that has become a “major concern,” a senior British official said on Saturday.
This warning came just as Nigeria moved in army reinforcements to hunt the militants, prompting British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond to suggest that Buhari needed to deal with the root causes because a military confrontation could end in “disaster.”
Crude sales from the Delta account for 70 percent of national income in Africa’s biggest economy but residents, some of whom sympathise with the militants, have long complained of poverty.
“It’s obviously a major concern,” Hammond told reporters on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Abuja, when asked about the Delta situation.
“The idea that your answer is by moving big chunks of the Nigerian Army to the Delta simply doesn’t work,” he said, adding that the army did not have the capacity while fighting Boko Haram jihadists in the north.
“It won’t deal with the underlying issues.
“Buhari has got to show as a president from the north that he is not ignoring the Delta, that he is engaging with the challenges in the Delta,” Hammond said.
The group has warned oil firms to leave the region within two weeks and says it is fighting for independence for the Delta.
It has said it wanted a greater share of oil revenues and an end to oil pollution.
The attacks have driven Nigerian oil output to a near 22-year low and, if the violence escalates into another insurgency, it could cripple output in a country facing a growing economic crisis.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Army has claimed that it had arrested the leader of the militants in an early morning raid.
According to areport, fierce looking members of the Nigerian Army invaded Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, again in wee hours of yesterday in search of Niger Delta Avengers members.
After members of Niger Delta Avengers bombed another oil facility belonging to Chevron Nigeria Limited, President Buhari ordered the Nigerian military to capture the culprits by all means.
Following this order, the military invaded Oporoza twice within one week.
An army officer who spoke anonymously stated that “members of Nigerian Army captured five members of Niger Delta Avengers, one of which is believed to be one of the leaders of the dreaded group.
“The suspects were taken into the custody of the army in the area, but are yet to make statements or admit if they are members of the Niger Delta Avengers or otherwise. They have been relocated to the 19th Battalion, Nigerian Army, Koko, Warri North.”
Nigerian Pilot could not confirm the development from the military high command at press time.
Reports have it that the recent wave of attacks by militants have hit infrastructure, taking Nigeria’s output down to 20-year low.