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Terror in the creeks: Rise of Niger Delta Avengers

The Niger Delta Avengers came into existence sometime in March 2016. Since its declaration of economic rebellion against the Nigerian government, the militant group has…

The Niger Delta Avengers came into existence sometime in March 2016. Since its declaration of economic rebellion against the Nigerian government, the militant group has claimed responsibility for many attacks in the region, telling on the nation’s economy, with no seeming end to the conflict.

Carrot or stick, the Niger Delta Avengers seem to have defied all odds in their avowed bid to cripple the Nigerian economy. President Muhammadu Buhari had in the wake of devastating bombings of pipelines in the oil rich Niger Delta region, warned the armed group of a treatment similar to the one meted on Boko Haram. “I am aware that in the last two weeks, the national grid collapsed a number of times. I hope this message will reach the vandals and saboteurs, who are blowing up pipelines and installations. We will deal with them the way we dealt with Boko Haram.”
If it was meant to be a threat, the president’s warning seemingly buoyed the confidence of the militants and their acts of terror continued. The group sustained its campaign of economic sabotage until recently when again Buhari made a u-turn and asked them to cease fire. That conciliatory call also seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Speaking recently, the president said: “Those of you who have friends among the leadership or even the militants themselves should plead with them in the name of God Almighty to take it easy.”
Rise of terror
Several militant groups sprung up in the Niger Delta a few months ago, with the Avengers as the most daring. The group declared insurrection against the Nigerian state in March, 2016 and since then has destroyed oil installations in Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.
The group, like many before it, based its actions on accusations of government’s indifference to issues of development in their region. The major aim of the Avengers is to cripple the nation’s economy by halting oil exploration and export. After a few weeks break, they resumed hostilities this week, bombing more pipelines.
Recent violence
On Monday night, the group blew up two manifolds operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) at Batan community in the Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State. Two other trunk lines, belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the area were also bombed by the militants. Another oil well, operated by Chevron Nigeria Limited at the Makaraba village of Gbaramatu Kingdom, was also attacked. In a coordinated attack, the Niger Delta Avengers destroyed several oil wells at about 10.35pm and 11.20pm on Monday night. Military sources, who confirmed the attacks, said the Trans-Forcados Pipelines were major trunk lines feeding the Shell Forcados with crude.
Before the recent attacks, the Avengers have blown pipelines belonging to Shell, Chevron, NNPC, NPDC and several oil majors operating in the region.
The situation has forced some of the oil companies to shut down operations in the area. The militants have also asked oil companies to suspend exploration. The action of the group has pushed up prices of crude oil in the international market from below $40 per barrel to about $50 per barrel. Nigeria is presently losing about 140,000 barrels of crude daily translating to a loss of $6.72m (about N1.3 billion) due to the attacks on oil installations by Niger Delta Avengers.
An oily situation
Aside the heavy loss in revenue accruals to the federation, sustained attacks on gas pipelines has led to drop in power generation. In the past few months, electricity generation had dropped to ‘zero megawatts’ several times. Most parts of Nigeria and of recent Ghana are experiencing power shortages as a result of economic sabotage by the group. Activities of the Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups in the region is telling hard on the fragile Nigerian economy, which depends largely on oil resources for revenue and electricity that powers local productions.
The federal government had initially planned a major military offensive to tackle the situation. Troops were massively deployed, heavy arms and ammunition were moved including fighter aircraft and hostilities were to commence. Apparently after realising the dangers of a full-blown war in the region, government has adopted conciliatory approach in dealing with the militant groups in the Niger Delta.
Unlike in the case of Boko Haram, a full scale war in the oil rich region could complicate the country’s economic woes. Military action could damage more installations. Hence government’s dangling carrots rather than wielding a heavy stick. President Buhari, clearly, prefers dialogue in resolving the matter as against hostility.
Conflicting objectives, clashing demands
The Niger Delta Avengers claim to be fighting for the development of the region, yet several of its conditions for a truce are on issues outside the area. At one breath the group sounds as being motivated by the plight of the ordinary citizens in the oil communities, in another breath, they are political and at times secessionist.
The group’s conditions for peace expose the multi dimensional reality of the group’s agitation. The conditions include; immediate implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference report, failure of which Nigeria will forcefully break-up; President Buhari, the director-general of the State Security Service and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva should apologize to the people of the Niger Delta region and family of Late Chief DSP Alamieyesegha for killing him with intimidation and harassment because of his party affiliation; the ownership of oil blocks in Nigeria must reflect 60% for the oil producing people and 40% for the non-oil producing people and the only Nigerian Maritime University sited in the most appropriate and befitting place – Okerenkoko in Delta State, must start the 2015/2016 academic session immediately.
Other conditions are that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi should apologize to the Ijaws and the entire Niger Delta people for his careless and reckless statement about the location of the University in Okerenko. Also, that Ogoniland and all oil-polluted lands in the Niger Delta must be cleaned up, while compensation should be paid to all oil-producing communities; Radio Biafra director and Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) leader, Nnamdi Kanu, should be released unconditionally; the Niger Delta Amnesty programme must be well-funded and allowed to continue to run effectively, All APC members indicted for corruption should be made to face trial like their counterparts in the Peoples Democratic Party and all oil multi-nationals and foreign investors should observe this demands, as their business interest in the country will be first targeted.
Looming threats
Apparently emboldened by the posture of government, the Niger Delta Avengers have threatened more attacks, after having warned oil workers and expatriates to leave the region or risk attacks. The group has vowed to cripple the economy by achieving ‘zero oil production’ in the region, and their most recent attacks point to their achieving their deadly goals.
What remains to be seen is if government will press on further with the view of stopping the violence and destruction perpetrated by the group. But with dialogue and peaceful means to an end to hostilities seemingly not being agreeable to the Avengers, Nigerians remain in suspense as to the end of the violent reign of the group. 

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