Nigerian President Will Talk with Delta Leaders: Oil Pipeline Attacks Persist

May 31, 2016Nigeriaby EW News Desk Team

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President Muhammadu Buhari intends to meet with representatives in the oil-bearing Niger Delta as militants destroy pipelines, according to International Business Times. People in the region have long complained that foreign oil companies pollute the environment and offer little economic benefits to locals.

The Niger Delta comprises of over 7.0% of Nigeria’s landmass, with many ethnic groups inhabiting the region.

Pipeline destruction is dire to the point where production has been cut in half. Various groups are behind the attacks, but newly formed Niger Delta Avengers is a primary force that wishes to prevent Nigerian oil production until the government addresses their demands.

Another group, known as the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, has seized oil from pipelines, selling it on the market to other nations. Militants have differing methods, but the unifying factor tying them together is foreign oil exploration.

Residents are also angry with the government, believing authorities extract wealth from local communities, and militants argue that the Muslim Buhari has ignored the concerns of the predominantly Christian south.

Buhari seems open to dialogue, but he intends to treat attackers in the same manner as terrorist group Boko Haram, planning to maintain a heavy troop presence in the Delta. Such an approach is unlikely to work, however, and local leaders and the British urged Buhari to address local concerns.

Militant groups started forming in the 2000s as commercial exploration degraded living standards. Oil production has also damaged the agriculture sector in many parts of the region, causing farmers and communities to fall deeper into poverty. Moreover, communities have contended with numerous oil spills that have damaged the environment and sickened many people.

Royal Dutch Shell and Italian energy firm ENI were responsible for over 550 spills in 2014 alone, and Shell paid $84 million in damages to fishermen whose businesses were impacted by the spills.

Attacks will continue so long as the status quo continues, but Buhari has not shown a willingness to instill reforms thus far. He did grant amnesty to former militants in 2009, however, enticing them with payouts and job training programs.

With that, attacks have persisted as funding for amnesty programs waned, and numerous militants have been arrested or killed. One reason why the government is cracking down on militants is Nigeria's struggle under a lower-priced oil market, and pipeline attacks are something authorities can ill afford at a time when the state needs consistent oil revenue to stay afloat. Buhari will meet with Delta leaders this week, but there is no word on how he intends to remedy the situation.

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