Nigeria: Engagement With Militants Might Avert Oil Disruptions Over Buhari's Re-Election

Photo: VOA News
Niger Delta.
28 February 2019

The fear that militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta could revive after the re-election of Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, can be addressed if the Federal Government sustains its engagement with agitators from the region, analysts have said.

According to them, the ability of the government to open discussions with the agitators following threats of renewed violence by Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), if President Buhari is re-elected can help allay such fears.

Buhari's closest challenger, Atiku Abubakar, of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has strongly protested votes, raising fears of renewed violence in the region, which has been a hotbed for militants targeting the country's oil infrastructure.

Some analysts had feared protests by the opposition party may spark violence in Nigeria, notably in the oil producing Niger Delta region, which has not been a popular base for Buhari.

NDA, the militant group that claimed most of the attacks on Nigeria's oil installations in 2016, had threatened to launch fresh attacks on the oil installations if Buhari wins. The NDA publicly backed Abubakar ahead of the election.

But the Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, expressed optimism that the disruptions might not happen.

"If there is proper engagement, disruptions might not happen. Before now, it used to happen, but after the engagement by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, it has been addressed. With improved engagement, there might be no disruptions in the region," he added.

"The initial reaction to the threat issued by the militants was that of seeking means to arm-twist the government for money, but we still want the government not to take the threat lightly," an official of a Western oil company, who preferred annonymity, said, reacting to the outcome of the election.

"The government should tighten security in the Niger Delta," energy analyst Abiodun Adesanya, also urged. "Companies have enjoyed stability in production and (transportation of oil) evacuation for a long time now."

Analysts do not expect an immediate impact to the energy industry, because during his campaign Buhari advocated a continuation of a largely state-controlled oil sector.

However, rival Abubakar had proposed large-scale privatisation along with the removal of gasoline subsidies.

Nigeria's crude and condensate production was just under 2 million b/d in January, and output is set to climb as the offshore 200,000 b/d Egina Field ramps up.

Buhari, who secured 15.19 million votes of the total 28.36 million votes cast, took 25 per cent of the vote in 28 states, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

"The new administration will intensify its efforts in security, restructuring the economy and fighting corruption. We have laid down the foundation, and we are committed to seeing matters to the end," Buhari said.

Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) claimed to win the majority of the votes largely from the mainly Muslim north and the southwest.

Abubakar, who was Nigeria's vice president from 1999-2007, under then-President Olusegun Obasanjo, secured 11.26 million votes. But he and his party have rejected the election results, and called for recount, citing widespread irregularities.

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