Nigerian troops have made several arrests following recent attacks on oil facilities that have hit production, but affected community say most of those arrested are innocent villagers.
A senior military source admtted to AFP on Monday that several arrests were made.
“We made some arrests over the weekend. They were picked up around scenes of recent attacks in the Niger delta,” said the source, from the joint task force involved in security in the region.
“It will be pre-emptive at this stage to conclude that the suspects are the militants that bombed the oil pipelines and installations until after investigation,” the source added.
Militants seeking a fairer share of revenue for locals in the oil-rich southern delta have resumed attacks on oil facilities, creating a fresh security headache for President Muhammadu Buhari.
There is growing concern about the impact of the unrest on oil production at a time when the government is facing a cash crunch because of the global slump in crude prices.
The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) group claimed responsibility for a recent attack on an offshore facility operated by US energy group Chevron and the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell.
That saw output slump from about 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd) to under 1.7 million bpd — the lowest since 1994 — with suggestions pipeline sabotage and leaks has cut production further.
The NDA has vowed to continue with the attacks and has warned oil firms to leave the region.
The Niger delta was plagued in the 2000s by rebels who attacked oil pipelines and kidnapped workers, wreaking havoc on production until a 2009 government amnesty.
Analysts attribute the renewed unrest to the winding down of the amnesty programme for former oil rebels and the arrest of a prominent former militant commander on corruption charges.