ABUJA – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (pictured) on Thursday said the government was in talks with oil rebels whose attacks have hit production, as the head of the state-run energy firm laid bare damage to the sector.
Buhari said in a statement that “his administration is talking to Niger delta militants through oil companies and law-enforcement agencies to find a lasting solution to insecurity in the region”.
The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) group has claimed the bulk of the attacks since February, which have targeted the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as oil majors Shell, Chevron and Eni.
The militants have revived long-standing grievances about widespread poverty in the southern swamps and creeks that saw attacks and kidnappings in the 2000s, slashing output until a government amnesty in 2009.
But the militants, who have previously scoffed at claims they are involved in back-channel talks, have added self-determination for the delta region to their list of demands.
Attacks on pipelines and other infrastructure have hit Nigeria’s output, exacerbating a wider economic crisis sparked by persistently low global oil prices for the last two years.
OPEC-member Nigeria ordinarily gets 70 percent of government revenue from oil sales.
The new group managing director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, on Thursday met chief of defence staff General Gabriel Olonisakin in Abuja and appealed for military support to secure key oil and gas facilities.
As well as militant attacks, kidnapping and piracy, he said there were nearly 1,500 cases of “pipeline hacking”, causing the loss of 109 million litres of petrol and 560,000 barrels of crude to refineries.
Between 2010 and 2015, more than 3,000 acts of vandalism were recorded while last year, 643 million litres of petrol valued at more than 51 billion naira ($175 million, 160 million euros) were lost.
“The 2016 national budget plan was based on 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil production,” he said.
“However, the budget plan is now grossly impacted due to renewed militancy: with about 700,000 bpd of oil production curtailed due to pipeline vandalism.”
Domestic natural gas supply had also been halved, he said, leading to “significant power outage” in a country already hit by regular cuts because of ailing and badly maintained grid infrastructure.
In all, between 2,500 to 3,000 megawatts of power has been lost, he added.