Tension grows in the Niger Delta as militants threaten to damage oil facilities while the federal government responds by deploying the Navy and gunboats to the region
By Anayo Ezugwu
TENSION is gradually returning to the Niger Delta region in Nigeria with the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, and the Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, suspending their ceasefire agreement with the federal government. The NDRC said it has rescinded the ceasefire it declared last year to join forces with the NDA in destroying oil facilities in the region.
The group, in a statement by W O I IzonEbi, its spokesperson, on Thursday, November 9, ordered Nigerians and expatriates working at Agbami, Akpo, Usan, Erna, Abo, Yoho, Unity and Benga FPSO, platforms operated by Chevron Nigeria Limited, Total, Mobil, Agip and Shell to vacate the platforms, warning that their safety can no longer be guaranteed by the gods of the rivers and land.
Prior to this, the NDA had on Friday, November 3, announced suspension of its ceasefire with the federal government. A statement by Murdoch Agbinibo, spokesman of the group, said they would renew hostilities. The militant said the fresh attacks would be worse than those of 2016. “We can assure you that every oil installation in our region will feel the warmth of the wrath of the Niger Delta Avengers,” tthe statement read.
Before the peace deal, activities of the group made Nigeria’s oil production to reach its lowest level of about 1.1 million barrels per day in at least 30 years. With the cessation of hostilities last year, oil production has climbed with the government basing its revenue projection on production of 2.4 million barrels per day for the 2018 budget. The government had expressed delight over the deal, which saw Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo touring the region to get the militants to stop bombing oil facilities.
But Agbinibo said Niger Delta elders under the umbrella of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, fell for the antics of the federal government, which is ‘only interested in our oil.’ “To the elders of the Niger Delta, PANDEF, we warned you against the antics of the Nigerian government yet you requested a chance to broker a new vision for our people; we told you and the rest of the world that the Nigerian government is only interested in our oil wells and not our well being yet you told us the signs are different this time around.
“We want to make it known to the PANDEF and the Nigeria government that our call for halt on ‘Operation Red Economy’ is officially over. We have just concluded headcount of our operatives across the country; we are pleased to announce that all our operatives are intact and focused; ready to implement instructions from the high command of the NDA in the comin few days.
“To the Nigerian government, we are aware of Egina FPSO built in South Korea by Samsung to be operated by Total Nigeria. One of the biggest FPSO built in South Korea has started its voyage to the oil fields of the Niger Delta to further exploit us while our concerns are left unattended. We are presently tracking and monitoring its movement and God willing, it shall not operate successfully amidst the return of the fury of the Niger Delta Avengers.”
With the threat by the avengers, Nigerians are increasingly worried about what will happen to the country’s fragile economy exited recession recently.
Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda, security expert, said the latest threats by the militants were unfortunate. He blamed the government for the latest threat saying that it was caused by government irresponsiveness. “You don’t make promises to people and years down the line you have not fulfilled that promise. And you expect people to take you serious. That is not good enough in this time. When the restiveness as we had in the region was on, you had meeting with the people and made promise; courtesy demands that you follow it up immediately with positive action. But once you go to sleep, nobody takes you serious; they think you are only trying to play upon them,” he said.
Ekpe-Juda also criticised the decision of the Navy to move military hardware to the region. He noted that moving hardware will not be the solution to this problem because the country has seen how the military failed in the north east. He said Navy cannot succeed in the Niger Delta going militarily. “It will just meet a situation where people will divide the ranks to save their relatives and friends. The nation should learn to do the right thing. President Buhari should learn to be responsive.
“He made promises to rebuild the north east and you can see and feel his actions in rebuilding the region. So why is it impossible for him to do same in the Niger Delta? The way out is for the government to meet the needs of the people. There were agreements reached with the Vice President, go ahead and implement those agreements.”
This notwithstading, the federal government has pleaded with militant groups in the region to be patient as efforts are being made to address all their grievances. Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, minister of Niger Delta Affairs, who made the appeal, said already some of the requests of the people had been attended to.
According to him, the issue calls for patience, knowing that some of these things have a procedure and everything has a phase of planning and a phase of execution.
The minister said government had started implementing the agreement it entered into with the people of the region. He disagreed with claims of the avengers that the government has failed in its promises to them, saying the university at Okerenkoko and the communities being part of surveillance of the petroleum infrastructure in the region were promises being kept.
“And of course you know that by the modular refineries which they had also talked about as sub-set of how they can be engaged instead of what is called illegal refineries, are also on, because the process of building a refinery or even getting the necessary procedures to establish such is not just a one day business. Advertisements have been made, people have indicated interest and of course, to get it sustainable, the government is having the state governments involved but privately driven so that all concerned will be on a common page to ensure that whenever it takes off, there is no frustration or sabotage,” he said.
Also, Edwin Clark, Ijaw elder statesman and leader of PANDEF has warned that attacks and destruction of oil and gas infrastructure by militants will not be in the interest of the people of Niger Delta. He said the elders would send a delegation to meet with NDA to douse the tension created by the group’s threat to resume hostilities in the region.
“They are our children and they mandated us to negotiate with the federal government on their behalf. They have to be patient and give us time to do so successfully. Any resumption of hostilities will not be in the interest of our people. This is not the time to resume hostilities. It is true that the federal government has not been quite serious about the negotiations, but we are asking the NDA to maintain the peace. We have pleaded with them and we are sending
– Nov 10, 2017 @ 11:57GMT |