Nigeria Fuel Shortage
Nigeria Fuel Shortage

LAGOS - Nigeria's government has reached a cease-fire with militants that have taken responsibility for attacks on the country's vital petroleum infrastructure, a senior official at the state-owned oil company told VOA on Tuesday.

But the Niger Delta Avengers group denied the existence of a truce, saying on Twitter that they "never remember having any agreement on cease-fire with the Nigeria government."

The group has taken credit for a series of bombings of pipelines and oil facilities that have cut Nigeria's daily oil production of around two million barrels by as much as half.

Nigeria is Africa's top crude producer, and oil makes up the majority of the country's exports.

Economists have cited the drop in production caused by the attacks as a key reason for the country's impending recession.

Nigeria Oil Crisis
FILE - Protesters face off with policemen following the removal of a fuel subsidy by the government in Lagos, Nigeria, May 18, 2016.

News of the possible cease-fire comes days after Minister of State for Petroleum Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu visited the oil-producing Niger Delta region.

He has said he wants to negotiate with the militants rather than use military force to stop the attacks.

"The government, I understand, are negotiating, they are discussing, and we are beginning to see the positive results," the incoming OPEC secretary general, Mohammed Barkindo, who is Nigerian, told reporters in the capital, Abuja.

A senior official at the state oil company, who spoke on condition of anonymity, had no further details on the cease-fire's terms or duration.

Despite being the source of Nigeria's oil wealth, the Niger Delta is impoverished and restive.

An earlier insurgency by militants fighting for more development in the region faded out in 2009 after the government started paying fighters a monthly stipend and offering them job training.

Nigeria has a checkered history of cease-fires with rebel groups.

A 2014 attempt to negotiate a truce with Islamist Boko Haram insurgents who have killed thousands and displaced millions in Nigeria's northeast fell through and was followed by a spate of violent attacks.

Some analysts doubted that whomever the government negotiated with actually represented Boko Haram.