The Nigerian government has ordered the immediate withdrawal of troops from communities in the Niger Delta region, amidallegations of a heavy-handed military response to renewed attacks on oil and gasinstallations in the area.
A new group called the Niger Delta Avengers has declared war on the installations, vowing to ground
Nigeria ’s oil production.
The group, which says it wants a sovereign state of the Niger Delta, has attacked several facilities in recent weeks, cutting oiland gas production and forcing oil companies to shut some export terminals.
Residents of the area have however complained of harassment and indiscriminate arrests by soldiers hunting the militants.
The government said it was withdrawing troops immediately. Soldiers will continue to patrol the waterways.
The decision was taken at a meeting between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, governors from states in the Niger Delta region, some ministers and service chiefs.
The minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, had on Monday announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed a two-week cessation of military offensive in the Niger Delta region, to enable the government dialogue with the militants.
Speaking to journalists after Tuesday’s meeting, Delta state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, said, “We have also agreed that there is a need to distill military operations directly in communities, but the military need to actually remain on our waterways to ensure that we adequately man the waterways itself while we engage the communities and that engagement processis starting any moment from now”.
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