President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the military to suspend operations in the Niger Delta for two weeks to create a window for dialogue with militants. Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, disclosed this in Abuja, yesterday.
According to him, 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.
He said: “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”.
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.
Avenue open to militants, says Kachikwu
‘’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”.
Speaking at the handover ceremony of Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas to the Federal Ministry of Education, Kachikwu 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. The NNPC boss said 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.
Meanwhile, Kachikwu has commended the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF, for being able to start and finish a huge project such as the Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas at Ekowe, Bayelsa State.
He said: “This is a very good attempt by PTDF, to cover the skill gap in the areas of training and research in oil and gas in the country.”
More oil firms review N-Delta operations
More oil companies in the Niger Delta have reviewed their operations, following continued bombing of their facilities in Delta and Bayelsa states. Investigations by Vanguard revealed that some of the oil companies have developed jitters over the latest impudence by militants operating in the creeks of the region.
Agency reports indicated that Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC, shut down operation after an attack, last Friday, by militants on its pipeline in Bayelsa State, forcing it to cut production by 65,000 barrels per day.
Spokesperson for Aiteo, Mr Shola Omole, operator of the Nembe Creek Trunk Line, which came under attack by Niger Delta Avengers, May 28, also said production on the line that conveyed crude to Bonny export terminal had been shut. He added that the company was compelled to shut daily production of 75,000 due to the attacks.
It was also learned that Chevron Nigeria Limited and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, have started reappraising their operations in the region, particularly with the constant bombings of their facilities by Niger Delta Avengers and other nascent militant groups.
A source, who pleaded anonymity, said the company had shut down most of its facilities in Bayelsa State due to militants’ threats and bombings. Similarly, Shell said it was forced to declare a force majeure on its Bonny light crude blend because the militants attacked its Nembe Trunk Line which it relied on to evacuate crude from its oil fields in Bayelsa State.
Vanguard also gathered that Eni, the parent company of NAOC’s production had been interrupted by 65,000 barrels per day, following attacks on its pipeline in Bayelsa State. A source close to the company, said: “The total deferred production due to the attack is 65,000 barrels of oil equivalent daily.”
FG in talks with N-Delta stakeholders – Osinbajo
However, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, revealed that the Federal Government has commenced talks with the leaders and people of the Niger Delta to halt the spate of attacks on oil installations in the area. Besides reaching out to the people, the Vice President said the government was beefing up security in the region, describing the blowing up of pipelines as economic sabotage.
Speaking during a meeting with a delegation of the European Union, led by the EU Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr. Michel Arrion, Osinbajo called on the Niger Delta leaders to live up to expectations befitting their status.
“We are talking, we are ensuring that we minimize losses and we are stepping up security. We are also engaging the international oil companies, IOCs, to see what options exist,” he said.
The Vice President reechoed that the focus of the Buhari Presidency “is to ensure that the man on the street in the Niger Delta receives the benefit from all that is available there.” (Vanguard)