It was hardly a meeting of minds but President Muhammadu Buhari's discussions with Niger Delta state governors and community leaders in Abuja on 1 November marks a clear change of strategy. It was Buhari's first meeting with regional leaders since militants of the Niger Delta Avengers started attacking pipelines and production platforms in January, eventually cutting oil production by a million barrels a day. Oil ministry officials claim production is back up to around 2 mn. barrels.
The government is set to launch a new strategy of negotiations
with grassroots organisations and a US$10 billion investment programme
for education, health services, training and jobs. Deputy Oil Minister
Emmanuel Kachikwu says much of
the funding would come from outside the state treasury, mainly from local and international oil companies. But
he concedes it will be difficult to raise substantial funds without
getting the National Assembly to approve long delayed reforms to the
Delta activists have told Buhari's officials there is little
chance of stopping the militant attacks if military operations continue
to be run by corrupt officers who benefit from various oil theft and
piracy schemes. The first stage of the government's Delta strategy will
be dominated by the US$200 mn. clean-up of Ogoniland, due to start
in early 2017 with an initial group of projects costing $10 mn. It will
be a critical test of the government's new policy in the Delta.