A day after a failed attempt at peace talks by militant groups in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, violence has erupted on the streets of Port Harcourt in Rivers State.
The militant groups had declared a ceasefire early this week and met to try to find ways of ending the shootings, bombings and kidnappings that have plagued the delta for years.
Reporter Chinedu Offor is in Imo State in southeastern Nigeria, very close to Port Harcourt. He spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the violence.
“The violence is between a group of armed militants and security personnel, who clashed early this morning in and around the capital city of Port Harcourt. There was sporadic shooting and running street battles…this after the government attempted to hunt down a group of militants, who shot dead some military personnel and abducted a woman and her two children. They also abducted a nephew of the former governor of the state. Right now, the security remains very tense with armed soldiers patrolling in the capital, Port Harcourt, and soldiers setting up barricades and sandbags in and around roads leading in the city,” he says.
Asked whether the resumption of violence came as a surprise following yesterday’s failure by militants to make peace with each other, Offor says, “No, the only surprise was the ferocity of the attack by the militants and of course the abduction of children. The culture of the people is that everyone respects children. So, when children are abducted or when children are caught in between this fighting you know it’s something serious and an indication the situation is running out of hand. And also, the brazen nature of the attacks. The militants are now not hiding in the creeks, but have come out in the streets to engage soldiers in running battles. It’s an indication that the situation is spiraling out of control and the militants are ready to take the fight to the government.”
The government is sending more troops to the area. “The government acknowledges the military situation will not solve the problem in the Niger Delta. So, they are hoping to gain more time to start working with various interest groups in the area to try and influence the political situation, knowing that a military situation will not work. The militants know this and they are saying they are holding on. And they will keep fighting the government until a political solution is reached.”