By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) - The Nigerian army is to reduce its presence in the restive Niger Delta as the government prepares for talks with militants who have attacked oil facilities in recent months, a senior official said Tuesday.
“We... agreed that there is a need to distill military operations directly in communities,” Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa told reporters in capital Abuja following a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and security chiefs.
However, he added that some forces would remain to guard the waterways that crisscross the region. Referring to potential talks, he added: “That engagement process is starting any moment from now.”
Militant groups such as the Niger Delta Avengers have targeted the region’s oil infrastructure, bringing oil production to a record low of around 1.1 million barrels a day, down from the 2.2 million a day projected in the 2016 budget.
The low international price of crude, renewed insurgency and reduced production have hit the Nigerian economy hard.
Government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media told Anadolu Agency that National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno has been appointed to lead the talks with the militants.