The President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government, has said it is considering scaling down military operations in the offensive against Niger Delta militants for about two weeks to allow for dialogue with the militants and other aggrieved groups in the region.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja yesterday, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the military to suspend operations in the Niger Delta for two weeks to create a window for dialogue with the militants, and called on them to shelve violence, sheathe their weapon and embrace dialogue with government.
Speaking at the handover ceremony of Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas to the Federal Ministry of Education, Kachikwu said the Federal Government is determined to explore the dialogue option, with a view to restoring genuine peace in the region, where oil production has been significantly hurt by activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, in the last two months.
“The President is interested in dialogue and has mandated the military to halt actions for about two weeks to ensure a team that will be led by the NSA, dialogues with the militants to ensure peace in the region,” he said.
This is coming as more oil companies in the Niger Delta have reviewed their operations, following continued bombing of their facilities in Delta and Bayelsa states.
“The avenue is open for them, provided the militants are willing to embrace dialogue and allow truth to reign because we are going to involve key leaders from the region who have had previous experience in that area to play whatever role they can,” he said.
The minister stated that the Federal Government was not just committed to securing oil and gas installations but the lives and property of people in the region.
According to Kachikwu, the Monguno team will consist of top officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, service chiefs and ministers from the Niger Delta, adding that the nation needed peace in oil production now than ever, given the circumstances currently facing the economy.
However, Kachikwu expressed hope that the dialogue would yield positive results and get Nigeria back to maximum production as the country was currently producing about 1.6mbpd, about 600,000 barrels, short of the 2.2mbpd production target of the 2016 budget.