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Nigerian militants vow to attack country's oil facilities if Buhari is re-elected

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Nigerian militants vow to attack country's oil facilities if Buhari is re-elected

Lagos — The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the militant group that claimed most of the attacks on Nigeria's oil installations in 2016, has issued a new threat if President Muhammadu Buhari is re-elected in the general election that takes place this Saturday.

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The NDA has publicly backed the opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar from the People's Democratic Party, which traditionally is very popular in the Niger Delta and the southeast of the country, where most of Nigeria's oil is produced.

"We are adopting Atiku Abubakar, as the sole candidate to be voted for by all the people of the Niger Delta as a result of his political ideology which is in tandem with our agitation for equitable and fair principles of federalism," the group said in a statement Thursday.

The NDA has been silent for more than a year, last issuing a threat against the country's offshore oil facilities in February 2018. The militant group claimed responsibility for most of the devastating attacks on Nigerian oil installations in 2016 that cut the West African country's output to a near 30-year low of 1.1 million b/d as the Nigerian economy slipped into recession.

The latest threat is a blow to the Nigerian government's peace initiatives that began in late 2016 with Niger Delta leaders and have continued through the last two years, helping Nigerian crude and condensate production rebound to around 2 million b/d in January.

Buhari has pledged to continue with the amnesty program for militants in the Niger Delta oil rebels who lay down their arms, according to the coordinator of the peace program, Charles Dokubo.

Buhari, who came to power in 2015 promising to tackle corruption -- especially in Nigeria's oil industry -- as well as to curtail the wave of Islamist insurgency in the country, has seen his popularity wane, particularly in the south of the country where almost all of the oil is produced.

Abubakar, a businessmen who was vice president from 1999-2007 under President Olusegun Obasanjo, is seen as a more cosmopolitan candidate, and enjoys wide backing among Nigeria's business class. Analysts say his promise to open up the business space and run a private-sector led government endeared him to the electorate in Nigeria's economic power base in the southwest.

-- Eklavya Gupte, eklavya.gupte@spglobal.com

-- Newsdesk-Nigeria, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Alisdair Bowles, newsdesk@spglobal.com