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Nigerian Government Sends More Troops to Niger Delta

Following developments in the Niger Delta is VOA reporter Chinedu Offor. He's monitoring the situation from the town of Okigwe in Imo State, which borders Rivers State, the scene of the violence. Chinedu spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the situation.

"Men and material in the form of more troops and more equipment have been deployed to the Niger Delta by the Nigerian government. The government says it wants to once and for all put an end to what it calls aggression by militant groups in the Niger Delta…. The city of Port Harcourt is still under heavy security watch. There are soldiers patrolling the area. Armed policemen are everywhere. Armored personnel carriers are protecting key government facilities," he says.

Offor says despite the heavy military presence, residents of Rivers State are not fleeing to neighboring states. "The reason may be that most of the fighting is going on in the creeks, away from most areas where there are a lot of people, especially the city of Port Harcourt," he says.

The creeks are shallow, sandy bottom waterways that wind their way through a thick mangrove rainforest. Nigerian patrol boats are ships are too big to make their way along the creeks. The militants use small boats. They fish in the creeks and many have homes along them. Offor says the Nigerian military has had to change tactics to attack the militants, who he says know the creeks "like the back of their hand."

He says the Rivers State Minister of Information says there's been success in recruiting militants who favor a settlement with the government and using them to fight other militants or teach the military new tactics. "This is what a lot of people say is the split within MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta)."

Offor says, "The government is now trying to use the same tactics the militants have used successfully to attack oil facilities and government forces to attack the militants."

Offor says that while residents of neighboring states are concerned the violence in Rivers State will spill over, the government has set up many checkpoints and roadblocks to help prevent that.