President Muhammadu Buhari should get personally involved in the Niger Delta talks, an organization representing the largest ethnic group in the region said on Friday.
The Nigerian presidency on Thursday said the government was in talks with militants through security agencies and oil companies to halt attacks on oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta region.
The youth council of the Ijaw ethnic group called that statement “highly ridiculous and laughable,” adding that the issues at stake are completely beyond the capacity of oil companies to resolve.”
Nigeria’s oil output, formerly the highest in the continent, has now fallen behind Angola’s following the wave of attacks in the region over the past six months.
“Only a sincere and holistic dialogue with the people of the Niger Delta region … can bring permanent peace,” the youth group said in a statement. “This can only happen when President Buhari as the political leader of Nigeria comes down to the negotiation table.”
The militants demand that a greater share of the country’s oil wealth be directed to the impoverished Delta region.
Crude sales make up around 70 percent of national income and most of that oil comes from the southern swampland.
Buhari caused widespread anger among former militants in the Delta earlier this year when he cut by around two-thirds the budget for an amnesty program, agreed in 2009, that offers them cash and job training.