World Bulletin / News Desk
Nigerian oil militants have threatened to declare the delta region independent by Oct. 1, should Abuja not implement enough structural reforms to hasten development in the oil-rich area.
"The October 1st declaration of independence is still sacrosanct if the Nigerian government fails to retrace its step by restructuring this country," Mudoch Agbinibo, spokesman for the Niger Delta Avenger militants, said in a statement Thursday.
"The [Muhammadu] Buhari-led government has failed Nigerians with their misdirected policies that have divided the country, as such nobody wants to be part of that failed state, not even the Niger Delta," he added.
The threat of secession comes four months after the group made similar comments about pulling the region out of Nigeria on account of widespread poverty in the region and continuous destruction of its environment as a result of oil exploration without commensurate development.
"Our prayer for Buhari and the Northern hypocrite [Northern Governors] is that oil should be found in commercial quantity in the North, so they can let the Niger Delta go," Agbinibo added in the statement, apparently referring to efforts to commence oil exploration in the country's side of the Lake Chad basin and elsewhere.
Nigeria has not responded to the threats of secession. A similar attempt in 1967 by the then-Eastern Region provoked a 30-month civil war in which around 2 million people were killed.
On Wednesday, Agbinibo denied that the group was ready to negotiate with the Nigerian government -- hours after another spokesman said the group had already assembled a team of negotiators to meet with the government.
The Niger Delta Avengers have sabotaged oil facilities since February cutting Nigeria's oil earnings by more than 60 percent, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Abuja has repeatedly said it was willing to dialogue with the militants while urging them to stop the bombings of gas pipelines.