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Nigerian Army Upbeat About Niger Delta Security

The Nigerian army says insecurity in the volatile oil-rich Niger Delta has eased greatly, despite recent kidnappings. Security forces, who have come under pressure to end insecurity in the Delta, say they are winning the battle against militants and criminals and are on track to eliminating all threats to the oil industry.

The Nigerian military has struggled since militants, who claim to be fighting for a greater share of the region's natural resources, began attacking the country's oil infrastructure and kidnapping oil workers three years ago.

Violence negatively impacts oil production

Violence in the Niger Delta, home to Africa's largest oil and gas industry, has cut a fifth of Nigeria's oil output in the past three years to less than two million barrels per day.

The main rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, declared a unilateral cease-fire in September, but said it could resume attacks if provoked.

Armed groups have mushroomed, funding themselves by trading stolen crude and taking advantage of the breakdown of law and order to extort ransoms for those they kidnap.

Rebels denounce criminal acts

The line between militancy and common criminality has become so blurred that MEND has publicly denounced some criminal acts in order to maintain legitimacy.

Spokesman for government troops in the Niger Delta, Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, says the military task force would soon wipe out militancy and crime in the region.

"No society is crime free. What we do as leaders is to bring it to a manageable proportion. There is still room for improvement. We will deal with the situation and very soon it would be all over," he said. "We are on top of the situation; it's just a matter of time. Even these little, little kidnap here and there will soon be over. There is a slowdown in militant activities and so there will be a serious slowdown in kidnap-related cases. As at now in Rivers state, security-wise, things are normalizing."

Police say gunmen shot dead an 11-year-old Nigerian girl and abducted her nine-year-old brother as they walked to school in the southern oil city of Port Harcourt on Thursday.

A Catholic priest, kidnapped by gunmen at the weekend, was released on Thursday.