Nigerian soldiers have arrested a member of the country's most prominent militant group at peace talks in the restive oil-rich Niger Delta. The arrest has raised fears of renewed attacks on Nigeria's oil industry.
The military described the captured oil rebel, Sabomabo Jackrich, as "a notorious militant leader." He had been on the wanted list of the security forces for several months.
Tony Uranta, a member of a government panel set up to consider solutions for the Delta's protracted violence, says the arrest of Jackrich at peace talks organized by community leaders in the Delta could derail the peace process in the region.
"This kind of move shows either a lack of sincerity on the part of government or disconnects between leadership in the presidency and leadership in the security forces," Uranta said. "The overall effect is going to be one of loss of goodwill on the part of government, loss of trust in government on the part of the Niger Delta."
Governmental Panel: MEND Leader Should Be Released
The government panel working on solutions for the Delta violence said recently that all militants should be granted amnesty if Nigeria is to achieve peace in the Niger Delta. It also said Henry Okah, leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, who is on trial for gun-running and treason, should be released.
MEND declared a unilateral cease-fire in September, but warned it could resume attacks if provoked.
Analysts say the arrest of another leading member of the group has raised the prospect of a new campaign of violence against the oil industry.
Attacks by militants have shut down around a fifth of crude output from Nigeria - Africa's biggest oil and gas industry - over the past three years, and peace in the Delta's creeks remains as elusive as ever.