Nigerian Army has reportedly arrested several suspected members of a militant group who call themselves the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA.
The group had allegedly claimed responsibility for renewed attacks on oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta.
The new militants first exploded the Okan platform that supplies oil and gas to the Escravos terminal in Delta State, which resulted to Chevron Nigeria Limited losing 35,000 barrels worth of oil products.
Blown up was Chevron Valve Platform in Abiteye, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State. They had earlier in the year attacked pipelines at Makaraba community, Gbaramatu clan, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State.
“Approximately, 35,000 barrels per day of Chevron’s net crude oil production in Nigeria are impacted,” the company said in a statement it released.
Chevron, which operates the joint venture with Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is not the hardest hit; the Royal Dutch Shell seems to be feeling the pains more and had evacuated most of its staff from its production facility, Eja OML 79.
The evacuation, which saw 98 key personnel airlifted from Eja OML 79, where production of 90,000 barrels of oil per day was halted, was carried out by three helicopters penultimate weekend.
The immediate impact of the attacks, apart from compelling the major oil companies to shut down production lines, had adverse effect on Nigeria’s total production as well as accruable revenue.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachukwu disclosed on Monday at the special session of the House of Representatives that Nigeria’s oil production had fallen by almost 40 percent to 1.4 million barrels a day, due to militant attacks on pipelines and other facilities.
In essence, the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta region which produces most of the crude oil that Nigeria relies on for around 70 percent of national income, has had more than a telling negative impact on the economy.
“Because of the incessant attacks and disruption of production in the Niger Delta, as I talk to you now, we are now producing about 1.4 million barrels per day,” Kachikwu told the House of Representatives.
“We were at 2.2 million bpd but we have lost 800,000 barrels,” he said, and regretted the increased cruel acts of the militant group, which had carried out a wave of attacks in the last few weeks.
Nigeria, which used to be Africa’s largest oil producer, is currently facing harsh difficulties due to the recent drop in global oil prices and its output now behind that of Angola.
Little wonder the activities of the new militant group have infuriated the state which rightly outlawed it. The state seems desperate to deploy whatever means to arrest the situation and restore normalcy, as it has, accordingly, instructed the military to deal ruthlessly with any group found to be conducting itself against the expressed interest of the state.
Following this, the military took its responsibility seriously by quickly hitting the creeks to comb out members of the new militant group. It yielded dividends going by the reported arrest of suspected members of the group.
Before the arrest and soon after it launched attacks on pipelines and other installations, the group had threatened to “cripple Nigeria’s economy” as well begin the processes to liberate the South-South region from the “enslavement” of the Nigerian state.
The group lambasted the federal government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari of insensitivity to the region, stressing that he had never visited the “creeks of the Niger Delta.” It also boasts about its members being “young, educated, well travelled…and educated in East Europe.”
Its tactic of attacking oil facilities in the region, announced in February, has caused havoc in the sector, with production levels now confirmed to have fallen to its lowest for more than two decades.
Perhaps, as proof of the authenticity of its rich membership, one of the attacks on an underwater Shell pipeline in February showed a high level of technical expertise, forcing the shutdown of a terminal which normally produces 250,000 barrels of oil a day.
So, the military by taking up the gauntlet had made it clear that it was set to crush the new Niger Delta militants.
The acting director of Defence Information, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar said the military was determined to carry out the express directive of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Buhari, to ensure that the group was crushed.
General Abubakar said: “We have the order from the president and we are monitoring the activities of the new group. All efforts will be made to bring out those behind it.
“The suspects, who perpetrated the first vandalism, were apprehended and paraded. These ones are not going to be different. We are going out on our operation to stop and apprehend them in accordance with the presidential directive.
“We are not deterred; nobody is happy about it but we are not deterred from doing what we are doing. And more proactive measures would be put in place. What they are doing is complete economic sabotage; it is economic terrorism.”
Describing the recent attacks by the militants as unpatriotic and callous, the army said it was aware of increased militant activities and promised that the military response would be both holistic and professional.
He vowed that the security forces would leave no stone unturned to apprehend the perpetrators, adding that “this is no doubt a criminal activity and they will be treated as such.
“The military and other security agencies will ensure the apprehension of these criminals and leave no stone unturned in this direction, in compliance with the directive (by President Buhari).”
General Abubakar called on community leaders, oil companies and innocent individuals to go about their legitimate endeavours as military and other security agencies had the capability to respond appropriately and guard the nation’s strategic assets and other platforms.
Responding, the Iyaw Youth Council, worldwide, quickly condemned the new militants, stating: “We do not see the justification in the Niger Delta Avengers embarking on destruction of oil facilities, because Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, denounced the group,” Mr. Eric Omare said.
Further, Paul Boroh, special adviser to the president on Niger Delta and coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, called on the group to embrace peace, noting that the government was willing to discuss with them over their grievances.
“Pipeline vandalism is an avoidable self-inflicted agony. It is unreasonable to engage in such criminal activity not only because of the resultant economic effect on the country but particularly as it also negatively affects the Niger Delta environment.
“The act of vandalising pipelines is counter-productive apart from it being a crime against the state. Those involved in this nefarious activity are economic and environmental saboteurs. It will do well for them to refrain from it, as my office is always open to dialogue regardless of their grievances.
“The federal government already has in place a well-structured reintegration programme for youths of the region, which has helped in maintaining the peace and stabilising security of the region. The Amnesty Programme has made militancy unattractive in the region mainly because of the government’s sincerity and commitment to the programme. The proper thing is for those behind such activity to embrace dialogue,” Boroh said.
With military action against the group, many think rather than assuage the problem, it would further aggravate the situation as the militants are likely to launch more attacks on pipelines with profound repercussions on the economy.
According to Joe Thankgod, “Military action is no solution. They know the creeks better than the military and even if the army have superior fire power and can successfully engage them in the creeks, the damage that will be done to oil pipelines will be grave.
“If few attacks created havoc to the economy and caused shortages in the supply of products leading to long queues at filling stations, what would happen should the members of the new militants decide to carry out full scale ‘war’ as was the case prior to late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s introduction of the amnesty programme?”
Speaking in the same vein, British Foreign Minister, Philip Hammond urged President Buhari to engage the militants in dialogue rather than resort to military option.
He gave the advice on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Abuja at the weekend, noting that Buhari’s military approach to the Niger Delta unrest would only be a recipe for disaster.
“The idea that your answer is by moving big chunks of the Nigerian Army to the Delta simply doesn’t work,” he said, adding that the army did not have the capacity to confront the new militants while fighting Boko Haram jihadists in the north.
“It won’t deal with the underlying issues. Buhari has got to show as a president from the north that he is not ignoring the Delta, which he is engaging with the challenges in the Delta,” Hammond said.
Also, he said Buhari needed to deal with the root causes because a military confrontation could end in “disaster.”
Crude sales from the Delta account for 70 percent of national income in Africa’s biggest economy, but residents, some of whom sympathise with the militants, have long complained of poverty.

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