The federal government and militant groups in the Niger Delta, including the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on oil and gas installations in recent months, have agreed to a 30-day truce to give President Muhammadu Buhari time to come up with a comprehensive plan for the oil-rich region, investigations by THISDAY have revealed.The “30 days of quiet” was said to have been agreed upon last week by a federal government team led by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and representatives of the militant groups, community leaders and the state governments.
Last week, Kachikwu had led a government delegation to different camps in Bayelsa and Delta States, including visiting the temporary site of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, in a bid to reach out to representatives of the militant groups to get them to stop its attacks on oil and gas facilities.
The activities of the militants have halved Nigeria’s oil production to some 1.4 million barrels per day, impacted negatively on power supply in the country and the country’s oil earnings.
According to a source who opened up on the 30-day period of truce, Kachikwu was said to have reached out to the militants through back channels and pleaded for some time for the Buhari administration to come up with a comprehensive Niger Delta plan that would address most of their demands.
The militant groups, the source said, accepted Kachikwu’s plea, adding that since the agreement was reached there had been no attacks on oil and gas installations in the oil-rich region.
“You would have noticed that there have been no bombings of oil assets in recent days. This is the fall out of the 30 days of quiet reached with the minister and his team.
“This will give the president time to come up with a comprehensive plan for the Niger Delta,” the source informed THISDAY.
He also revealed that some of the demands made by the militants were for greater control of the hydrocarbon resources in their communities, improved funding for the Amnesty Programme, clean-up of oil producing communities in the Niger Delta that had been devastated by oil exploration activities, and funding for the Maritime University, among others.
He added that the problem with respect to the Maritime University stemmed from the fact that Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, whose ministry superintends the university, did not provide for funding of the institution in the 2016 budget.
The absence of funding for the tertiary institution was compounded by Amaechi’s preference for funding the Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron, Akwa Ibom State, and his demand that a probe be carried out into why N13 billion was spent on acquiring the land alone for the university in Okerenkoko, which resulted in an open disagreement with Kachikwu on the issue.
The source said the N13 billion was allegedly paid to ex-Niger Delta militant and fugitive, Mr. Government Ekpemupolo, better known as Tompolo, and has formed part of the basis of his prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Prior to the agreement temporarily ending the attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta, the federal government had ordered the military to withdraw its troops, fighter jets and battleships that had been deployed in the region to flush out the militants.