Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari was voted into power in 2015 on an anti-corruption platform
Warri (Nigeria) (AFP) - Militant group the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) on Friday denied being in talks with Nigeria's government to end attacks on key oil facilities that have cut output and hammered revenue.
President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday his administration was negotiating with the rebels through oil companies and security agencies.
But the NDA said on its website that the "truth is that we are not aware of any peace talks".
"If there is any such peace talk, it means the president is talking to their mercenaries set to disturb the genuine struggle of the agitators," it added.
The rebels have previously scoffed at claims they are involved in back-channel discussions and accused the government of not being sincere.
"If we are to engage in any peace talk we made it clear that the international community must be part of it," the statement added.
"The president knows our demands. So they should stop deceiving the international oil companies, the general public and the international community."
Meanwhile the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), an umbrella body for youths in the southern Niger delta region, also dismissed the government's claim of dialogue.
"President Buhari and the federal government of Nigeria should stop deceiving Nigerians and the international community about talks with Niger Delta militants on how to stop attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta region as this is highly ridiculous and laughable," the IYC said in the southern port city of Warri.
The group said it was "embarrassing" for Buhari to say oil majors were negotiating on behalf of government as "the issues at stake are completely beyond the capacity of oil companies to resolve".
The Avengers have claimed a string of devastating attacks against the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as oil majors Shell, Chevron and Eni since February.
- Oil output reduced -
The attacks have reduced output at a time when Nigeria is struggling with low global crude prices which have hammered government revenues, weakening the naira currency and pushing up inflation to near 11-year highs.
The rebels want oil majors to leave the Niger delta, blaming them for contributing to widespread poverty and under-development of the region.
They also seek self-determination for the oil-producing states in the delta.
The Avengers are believed to have sympathies for Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, a fugitive former militant leader wanted for corruption charges by government.
Ekpemupolo was the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the high-profile militant group that wreaked havoc on Nigeria's oil infrastructure in the 2000s until a 2009 amnesty ended the unrest in the region.
The former oil warlord said in an open letter to Buhari on Friday that his 84-year-old father had been brutalised by the military during a recent hunt for the Avengers in his community in southern Delta state.
He said his father's leg had to be amputated after his ordeal in the hands of the rampaging soldiers.
"Sadly, one of his lower limbs was amputated two weeks ago. From the doctor's report, it will be a thing of miracle if he survives this incident," he said.
He appealed to the government to stop the assault on his family, denying he had any links with the militants.
"Is this 84-year-old man also a member of the Niger Delta Avengers that they brutalized to the point of death?" he asked.