The Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group that has claimed responsibility for attacks on oil and gas facilities in Nigeria’s southern energy hub, said on Tuesday it never agreed a ceasefire with the government.
Government officials told Reuters a one-month ceasefire had been agreed last week after talks between the oil minister, community groups and state governors in the Niger Delta, the source of most of Nigeria’s crude oil.
Militants say they want a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth to go to the impoverished Delta region. Crude sales make up about 70 percent of national income and the vast majority of that oil comes from the southern swampland.
A petroleum ministry official said the Avengers, who have claimed responsibility for most attacks in the last few weeks that have pushed Nigeria’s crude output to 30-year lows, were among those who agreed to a truce.
“It was very difficult getting the Niger Delta Avengers to the negotiating table, but we eventually did through a proxy channel and achieved the truce,” said the official, who asked not to be identified. A second government official also said a ceasefire was agreed.
But hours later the Avengers issued a statement on Twitter denying that it had an agreement with the government.
“The NDA High Command never remember having any agreement on ceasefire with the Nigeria government,” said the group.
It would be difficult to achieve a ceasefire in the hard to access swamps where militants are divided into small groups that tap widespread anger over poverty and oil spills. Leaders have little sway over unemployed youths willing to work for anyone who pays them.