The leader of a militia group from the southern oil-rich region of Nigeria says talks between government officials and rebels continued in Abuja late into the evening on Thursday. The rebel group, which is demanding autonomy as well as revenues from oil sales, agreed to a temporary ceasefire Wednesday to allow the talks to take place.
The Abuja meeting is a last-minute attempt to avert an attack by the rebel leader Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and his militia, known as the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force. The rebel leader has threatened to launch an attack against foreign oil workers and facilities on October 1.
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producing nation. Although the vast majority of the country's oil comes from the Niger Delta region, it is one of the poorest areas of the country. Mr. Dokubo-Asari says he wants money from oil revenues and greater autonomy for the people in the impoverished region. "We want to control our resources and to discuss these issues, a sovereign nation conference should be convened to discuss and address these issues for once and for all," he said.
The Nigerian government has been cracking down on militia members who have been tapping into oil pipelines to siphon crude to sell on the black market in order to purchase weapons and ammunition.
Both the government and the militia have agreed to a temporary ceasefire in order to conduct the talks. Mr. Dokubo-Asari denies reports that the ceasefire has been violated. Since [Wednesday], there have not been any incidents," he said. "The president has ordered the Nigerian military to stop their wars and we too have kept our word that there is no strike."
Last year an uprising by members of the local Ijaw tribe caused the oil companies to temporarily suspend operations. Fears of a similar uprising this year have helped spur the rise in worldwide oil prices, which reached just over $50 a barrel earlier this week.