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Who are the Niger Delta Avengers?

Nigeria’s oil and gas production threatened by new militants

A new militant group has emerged in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta area. The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) first came under the spotlight in February, when it claimed responsibility for an attack on an underwater pipeline owned by oil and gas company Royal Dutch Shell, which resulted in the temporary halt of oil flow.

NDA’s demands

1. Immediate implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference. Otherwise, this country will break-up forcefully.

2. President Buhari, the DSS and Timipre Sylva should apologise 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.

3. The ownership of oil blocks must reflect 60% for the oil producing people and 40% for the non-oil producing people.

4. The only Nigerian Maritime University sited in the most appropriate and befitting place Okerenkoko must start the 2015/2016 academic session immediately.

5. The minister of transportation, Mr Rotimi Amechi should apologise to the Ijaws and the entire Niger Delta people for his careless and reckless statement about the siting of the University.

6. The Ogoniland and indeed all oil polluted lands in the Niger Delta must be cleaned up and compensation be paid to all oil producing communities.

7. Mr Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Ipob, must be released unconditionally as the court said.

8. The Niger Delta Amnesty programme must be well funded and let to continue to run effectively.

9. All APC members that are indicted in any corruption related cases should be made to face trial, like the PDP members. Otherwise Buhari should shamefully forget about this nonsense anti-corruption fight.

10. All oil multi-nationals and foreign investors should observe this ultimatum, as their business interest in the country must be first target.

The group, which has its own website, Twitter account and Facebook page, vowed it will carry out attacks until perceived marginalisation of people in the Niger Delta ends. As a result, Shell evacuated staff from the Eja OML 79 facility, where oil production had already been halted.

NDA, the latest militant organisation to wage war against the Nigerian government, defines itself as a group of Niger Deltans voted to start a “revolution to free Nigeria from the wicked administration”.

The group has warned that attacks against Shell and energy corporation Chevron are “just the beginning”, unless the government meets the NDA’s demands.

Among other things, the group calls for areas affected by oil spills be cleaned and communities in the areas polluted by oil be compensated. NDA also calls for the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu, one of the leaders of a pro-Biafran movement that demands the independence of Biafran territories forcibly annexed to Nigeria during British colonisation.

President Muhammadu Buhari has accused NDA of vandalism and warned the Nigerian government will deal with NDA in the same way as it is dealing with Boko Haram terrorists in the country’s northeast.

“The president gave special instruction to the military, especially to the chief of naval staff, that this ugly development of vandals in the Niger Delta should end immediately,” a presidential aide was quoted by the Punch website as saying.

NDA and Mend

Earlier in May, Chief Government Ekpemupolo or “Tompolo” as he is also known − commander of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), one of Delta’s largest militant groups – publicly distanced himself from NDA, causing the anger of the newly established group.

Tompolo, who was granted full amnesty by the Nigerian government in 2009, said in a statement: “I am not part of the group. It is very unfortunate that I am still being accused of pipeline vandalism despite several press releases I have made, denying my involvement in the renewed hostilities in the Niger Delta region.”

Tompolo also urged Nigerian authorities to keep carrying out repair works at the Forcados 48-inch pipeline, damaged by an attack for which NDA claimed responsibility.

Following the statement, NDA urged Tompolo to apologise to the group for publicly supporting repair works at Forcados despite the fact NDA warned the site should not be approached by anyone. After Topmpolo failed to issue an apology, NDA attacked oil and gas lines owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Coperation (NNPC) and Chevron.

In spite of the grievances between the two groups, some believe NDA and Mend share a similar agenda. “NDA has another name and other players, but it is no different from Mend, although Tompolo has denied any links with the group,” David Otto, chief executive of TGS Intelligence Consultants, told IBTimes UK. “This group is likely going to be as lethal as Mend. It’s all about oil, money and perceived environmental pollution.”

Niger Delta militants

Militant groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta region took hold in the early 2000s following the deterioration of the living conditions of people due to the increase of oil-related activities by foreign exploration corporations. Tensions flared up in the local communities as some ethnic groups felt they were being exploited and did not benefit from the presence of crude oil on their land.

The repeated oil spills that considerably damaged the environment and affected people’s health further deepened the communities’ frustration. After being elected in 2015, Buhari extended a 2009 amnesty granted to some 30,000 former militants in the area.

By Ludovica Iaccino and this article was first published in the International Business Times

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