Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari plans to meet next week with Niger Delta militant groups in an effort to end attacks on oil infrastructure and help stabilize the troubled southern region – a big step toward meeting the latest demands for dialogue raised by industry saboteurs earlier this week.
The ongoing attacks, most recently on Tuesday at the Chevron offshore terminal at Escravos, have added to Nigeria’s economic woes with direct impacts to the budget in an already weakened oil market, and a looming shadow on Nigeria’s ability to attract investment and advance its economic recovery.
Nigerian Senator Udoma Udo Udoma said Thursday that the nation’s budget was hit by “unanticipated revenue shortfalls along the line due to militants’ activities in the oil-producing Niger Delta region.”
Nigeria has set a timeline for 2017 to end all insurgent attacks. The country hopes to remedy an unsustainable economic and political situation, one that many analysts say it’s been slow to contain, with $10 billion in public and private investment, Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu said.
“Our target is to ensure zero militancy in the area,” Kachikwu told Nigerian media. “This planned meeting shows the level of interest the president has to ensure peace in the area.”
The promised funding is meant to improve services and infrastructure in the oil-producing regions where, the Niger Delta Avengers and other militants and community activists argue, none of the wealth is spent while the environment is compromised.
Buhari, who this week sought National Assembly approval to borrow $30 billion for infrastructure improvements, said plans to diversify the nation’s economy are a priority but oil remains at the core. The industry accounts for 70 percent of Nigeria’s revenues.
Oil majors including ExxonMobil – which announced this week the discovery of a potentially billion-barrel offshore oilfield – have been uneasy about Nigeria’s ability to move its economy forward and resolve its political tensions in the Niger Delta.
Image: ExxonMobil Nigeria