President Muhammadu Buhari will on Thursday visit the Niger Delta region, rocked by attacks on oil and gas facilities, for the first time since taking office a year ago, Reuters quoted a government official on Monday.
The visit was announced a day after Buhari said the government would hold talks with leaders in Nigeria’s main oil-producing region to address their grievances, in a bid to stop a surge in pipeline attacks.
Buhari will visit Ogoniland to launch a much-delayed programme to clean up areas heavily polluted by oil spills, the official said.
People in the southern swamps, where oil giants such as Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron operate, have for years complained about the oil industry’s pollution and about economic marginalisation by the state.
Some have taken up arms, and a surge in attacks on oil installations has cut Nigeria’s oil output to a 20-year low.
A militant group called Niger Delta Avengers, which staged several attacks in recent weeks, has accused Buhari of having never visited the Niger Delta region to hear about local problems.
Local officials and Western allies such as Britain have told Buhari that moving army reinforcements to the Delta would not be enough to stop the attacks and that the population’s grievances should be dealt with.
On Thursday, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, said an amnesty programme for former militants, signed in 2009 to end a previous insurgency, needed to improve.
The scheme providing cash benefits and job training to those who lay down their arms has had its funding cut by two thirds.
Buhari has also upset former militants by ending contracts to protect pipelines, part of a drive to tackle graft.