Around 80 illegal oil refineries were destroyed by military troops in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region since early March, the Military Spokesman, Abubakar Abdullahi, announced in a public statement.

The official remark goes against the comments made in February by Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who defended the need to engage with the black market and offer work opportunities to the people relying on the illicit activities.

Parallel to the troops’ operations, the government has also been holding talks with militants to end the attacks on the country’s oil pipelines, which are estimated to have caused a downturn of 700,000b/d on Nigeria’s output for several months.

The militants on the region, who have stolen crude oil from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and oil majors, are the main suppliers of the crude processed in the unauthorized refineries.

In 2016, the attacks, in addition to the slump on oil prices, represented one of the main factors behind the 1.5% fall in Nigeria’s economy – the first full-year recession in 25 years. Although the military crackdown on the illicit refineries has incited more tension on the oil-rich region, no militant attacks on oil facilities have been recorded in 2017.