SaharaReporters has learned that negotiations between the Federal Government and representatives of various groups in the Niger Delta have come to a near standstill in a dispute over the disbursement of N8 billion. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been in negotiations with several Niger Delta stakeholders to end the growing insecurity in the zone where a new militant group, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), has been bombing oil facilities.
Sources at the Presidency told SaharaReporters that a number of “elders” from the Niger Delta area, who have been represented in the talks as “major stakeholders,” demanded N8 billion from the Buhari administration as a condition for continuing with negotiations.
“The elders also demanded that the money should be given directly by the Federal Government to them because they said they don’t trust the governors of the Niger Delta States to handle the funds,” one source said.
According to the source, Mr. Buhari was adamant that he could not honor the elders’ demands. He said the president stated that such a payment to a private group would violate the Constitution. “Mr. President’s position is that there is no legal mechanism in place that allows him to allocate any sum of money directly to the elder group, bypassing State governments. The elders have to change the constitution if they want President Muhammadu Buhari to give them money directly,” the source said.
President Buhari urged the elders to publicly protest against the governors if they believed the state governors to be corrupt and untrustworthy.
In the face of the stalemate in negotiations, President Buhari is reportedly bent on escalating military options as a way to curb the growing insecurity in the region.
Friday evening, security forces arrested more than 100 suspected militants from the Niger Delta area.
Over the last few months, members of the Niger Delta Avengers have bombed numerous oil facilities belonging to international oil companies in the Niger Delta region. The militant group has demanded more crude oil revenues for the oil-producing states, the release of militants who are being detained or incarcerated, and continued funding of the amnesty program for former militants. The group’s bomb attacks on oil facilities have forced oil firms in the Delta region to be on high alert, to take significant security measures to protect their employees, and to cut down on oil production.
Earlier this week, the United States State Department issued a travel warning for American citizens in twenty Nigerian states, including the entire states in the Niger Delta. The State Department cited growing insecurity, the risk of abduction and violent robbery as well as terrorism.