In the oil-rich Niger delta, where communities suffer "enormous" effects from decades of spills, a militant group claiming responsibility for a spate of attacks on oil infrastructure now appears to have the backing of some community members.
The group, Niger Delta Avengers, whose links and sponsors are unclear, said it was responsible for blowing up Chevron's main electricity power line, which grounded the oil giant's activities in Nigeria, the company said Thursday, while another attack on a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline took place late Thursday.
The Avengers, the Guardian reports, "say they are fighting to protect the environment and to win locals a bigger share of the profits."
As ABC News reports,
The Niger Delta Avengers emerged in February, after claiming responsibility for an attack on an underwater pipeline run by Shell, forcing the oil giant to halt its 250,000-barrel-per-day Forcados terminal for weeks. The militant group has since taken responsibility for several other attacks in the southern Delta state, including one earlier this month at an offshore oil platform run by Chevron, which produces tens of thousands of barrels a day.
The group, Reuters adds,
who have given oil firms until end of the month to leave in what they frame as struggle for the Delta's independence, have intensified attacks in recent weeks, pushing oil output to its lowest in more than 20 years and compounding the problems of Africa's largest economy.
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A post purportedly written by the Avengers in April 2016, refers to ongoing suffering in the region "as a result of the oil and gas exploration for decades" and argues that "the federal government is only interested in the oil and not the wellbeing of the Niger Delta people."
According to Niger Delta activist and Executive Secretary of the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy, Tony Uranta, the militant group's emergence is a result of the ongoing struggle for self-determination by the region's communities, noting the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, who "died fighting for emancipation of the Niger Delta."
And, the Associated Press reports,
In a surprise development, civilian leaders sided with the attackers, calling them "armed agitators" protesting failed government policies.
"Until the issues of resource control that the Niger Delta people have been fighting for since 1960 are addressed ... there can be no peace," said Udengs Eradiri, president of the Ijaw Youth Congress.
Another group, the Biafra Nations Youth League (BNYL), also voiced support, with its deputy president, Ebuta Victor Takon, saying, "The Nigeria government should give peace a chance and adhere to the demands of the militants. We are in support of the demands because we don't want the continuous destruction of our pipelines. It belongs to us," he said.
Agence France-Presse notes that "Unlike the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, the militant activity in the Niger delta has an immediate and significant impact on the country's wealth, with oil exports accounting for 70 percent of Nigeria's government revenue."