November 6, 2017 / 3:11 AM / 13 days ago

Niger Delta leader calls on Avengers to hold off oil attacks

ABUJA (Reuters) - A key community leader from Nigeria’s tense Delta oil-producing region called on militants on Sunday not to resume their attacks until they had further time to negotiate their demands with the government.

Chief Edwin Clark, who leads the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), which has been holding peace talks with the government since last year, called on the Niger Delta Avengers militant group to “be patient.”

The Avengers, whose attacks last year wrought havoc on the nation’s oil output, promised on Friday a “brutish, brutal and bloody” return to violence because they said they had “lost faith” in local leaders to get what they wanted from the government.

“This is not  the time to resume hostilities,” Clark said in a statement issued by the Presidential Amnesty Programme. “It is true that the federal government has not been quite serious about the negotiations, but we are asking the Niger Delta Avengers to maintain the peace.”

He added that PANDEF was sending a delegation to meet the group’s leaders.

The Avengers, like many in the Niger Delta, say they want a greater share of Nigeria’s energy wealth to stay in the impoverished swampland region, which produces the bulk of the oil but is largely underdeveloped.

The statement came after a government delegation led by Brigadier General Paul Boroh, special adviser to the president on the Niger Delta, visited Clark at his Abuja home on Sunday. Clark said Boroh assured him that the talks were “back on track”, and that PANDEF leaders would meet soon in Warri.

The 2016 attacks slashed oil output to close to 1 million barrels per day from roughly 2.2 million bpd. That along with low oil prices pushed the nation into its first recession in 25 years.

Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Libby George; Editing by Peter Cooney

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