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Nigeria's bid to ramp up oil output comes under threat as militants back out of peace talks

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Nigeria's bid to ramp up oil output comes under threat as militants back out of peace talks


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Lagos — Nigeria's hopes of ramping up oil production back to pre-January 2016 levels of 2.2 million b/d hang in balance as militants put forward further demands and one group backed out of peace talks over the weekend, following a meeting between the country's president and Niger Delta leaders.

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met senior Niger Delta leaders last week to end the militancy in the Niger Delta oil region, and the country's junior oil minister had said on November 1 that oil output had recovered sharply to 2.1 million b/d following the peace that was gradually returning to the region.

But militant groups from the region expressed dissatisfaction over the weekend, in the outcome of the peace meeting and said they had little or no hope about Buhari meeting demands put forward by region's leaders.

The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, one of the various militant groups that have sprung up in the delta, earlier on Saturday disassociated itself from the peace meeting and threatened to launch further attacks on oil installations that would bring Nigerian production to 500,000 b/d.

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The group in a statement claimed responsibility for the November 2 bombing of the Trans-Forcados pipeline, which transports the popular export grade Forcados.

"The destruction of the Trans-Forcados Pipeline is just a warning. That shadow operation that brought the [pipeline] down was only meant to let these companies know that we aren't kidding with them," the militant group said.

The self-styled Niger Delta Avengers, or NDA -- the group responsible for most of the attacks on oil facilities that slashed Nigeria's output to nearly 30-years low -- said Sunday they had added further demands to the 16-point demands submitted by the leaders, including immediate take off of a Maritime University in the Niger Delta, the immediate withdrawal of troops in the region and involvement of international negotiators in the peace negotiations.

"Let Buhari be advised to come down [to the Niger Delta region] ... to set the federal government dialogue and negotiations team with neutral international observers and representatives of International Oil Companies," the NDA said.

The upsurge in militancy in the delta region since the beginning of this year, cut Nigeria's oil production by over 700,000 b/d and at a point, left four Nigerian crude export grades -- Qua Iboe, Bonny Light, Brass River and Forcados -- under force majeure.

However, Nigeria's oil output had recovered sharply in the past few months on the return of Qua Iboe, Forcados and Bonny Light as militant attacks were slowing down, while the Nigerian government said it expects output to rise to 2.2 million b/d by end of December.


--Edited by Haripriya Banerjee,