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Masked Ateke Tom militants stand with guns at their camp in the Niger Delta. Militant groups say they are fighting for the control of government oil wells. - 


Bob Moon: Nigeria is one of this country's biggest suppliers of oil, but violence in that West African nation is disrupting the flow of crude. In the past few years, militants in the oil rich Niger Delta have waged a guerilla war against big oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon. They've attacked oil pipelines and offshore oil rigs. Now the government there says it's creating a special ministry to stabilize the civil unrest in the region. Gretchen Wilson has more.

Gretchen Wilson: The attacks have created hemorrhages throughout Nigeria's oil system, slowing production more than 20 percent from a few years ago. OPEC says the Nigeria has been stripped of its title as Africa's top oil producer, overtaken by Angola.

The Niger Delta is extremely poor and polluted. The militants say they want local residents to get a bigger share of the billions of dollars being pumped out of the ground.

Nigeria's government is eager to stabilize the region to reassure international investors and major oil importers, like the U.S. It's launched a new committee to lead peace talks. And the new Ministry of the Niger Delta will oversee development in the region.

The idea is that signs of political engagement will placate the militias and get the oil flowing again. But unless living conditions improve, it's unlikely that the militant groups will stop their attacks.

In Johannesburg, I'm Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.