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Nigeria's acting president to return to restive oil heartlands

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Nigeria's acting president to return to restive oil heartlands

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ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s acting president will meet again with community leaders from the Niger Delta oil heartlands next week, his spokesman said on Tuesday, in a bid to shore up a fragile truce between militants and the government there. With Africa’s biggest economy mired in recession, delegations including Acting President Yemi Osinbajo have held talks since late last year with leaders in the oil-producing states in the southeast. But the local leaders have said the efforts to secure peace are empty promises, and a return to violence in the area would derail any broader recovery in the crude-dependent economy. “Next week there is going to be a follow-up meeting between the acting president and the stakeholders of the Niger Delta,” said a spokesman for Osinbajo. The government, including an inter-ministerial committee headed by the acting president, and Niger Delta stakeholders will also issue a report next week, he said. Osinbajo was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari to head the country while the leader remains in Britain on medical leave for an undisclosed ailment. In the meeting next week, the government and representatives from the Delta will discuss key issues such as legalising illicit refineries and turning them into so-called “modular refineries”, which the administration hopes to start from next month. The contentious clean-up of the heavily polluted Ogoni region and plans to open a maritime university in October, which many community leaders have voiced support for, will also be discussed, said the spokesman. Oil exports are now set to exceed 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in August, the highest in 17 months, from as little as just over 1 million bpd at certain points last year. That is due to a steady decline in attacks on pipelines, providing a much-needed injection of cash into Nigerian government coffers.

(Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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