Nigeria Opens Negotiations with Niger Delta Militants

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By Reuters 2016-07-21 21:26:02

The Nigerian government is talking to militants in the southern Niger Delta to end a wave of attacks on oil and gas facilities, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday.

The government was using oil companies and security agencies to talk to the militants "to find a lasting solution to insecurity in the region," Buhari said in a statement.

Buhari also said his government was reviewing an amnesty programme for former militants, which offers cash and job training, after initially slashing the scheme's budget by two-thirds and angering militants.

"We understand their feelings," Buhari said. "We are studying the instruments (of the amnesty). We have to secure the environment, otherwise investment will not come."

In June, government officials said a one-month ceasefire had been agreed with the Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group that has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks, but the group has denied this.

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.

Nigeria, an OPEC member, was Africa's top oil producer until the recent spate of attacks pushed it behind Angola.

A number of new militant groups have sprung up in the last few weeks, each with their own set of demands, which has made the insurgency increasingly fractured. It is not yet clear how many groups took part in the talks.