(Adds dropped word “they” in paragraph 5)
YENAGOA, Nigeria May 21 (Reuters) - Former militants have called for a halt to a resurgence of attacks on oil and gas facilities in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, saying it is an unnecessary distraction for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a group of former militants who previously targeted the oil-rich region, made the call in a statement late on Friday.
Buhari said on Friday he had heightened the military presence in the region where attacks in the last few weeks - mostly claimed by a group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers - have driven the country’s oil output to a more than 20-year low.
“We should give President Buhari the opportunity to fulfil his promises to the Niger Delta people by maintaining peace in the region,” former MEND members said in the statement.
“The current resurgence of militancy is an unnecessary distraction to the current administration,” they said.
Nigeria, which relies on oil sales for 70 percent of national income, is going through its worst economic crisis in decades caused by low crude prices.
Former members of MEND, many of whom secured lucrative contracts to protect pipelines under an amnesty agreement, are influential, although whether this extends to those responsible for the recent attacks is not clear. (Reporting by Tife Owolabi; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Alexander Smith)