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Not All Niger Delta Militants Have Agreed to Cease Fire

The militant group, Niger Delta Red Squad, operating in the Ohaji-Egbema axis of Imo State has bombed an Agip Petroleum pipeline at Uzo-Oru Ikwerede in Awarra community of Ohaji-Egbema council area of Imo state. Posting the attack on their Face book wall yesterday, the group warned Agip personnel to keep away from the pipeline as anybody found within the area would be beheaded.

Analyst Comments: This group operates outside the core Niger Delta states, but have adopted the tactics of the Niger Delta militants in airing their grievances to the government. More of these styles of attacks should be expected across the Niger Delta until the government security forces are able to identify and neutralize the key players.

The Nigerian military continues to carry out targeted military operations in the Niger Delta despite the ceasefire agreement. This is decidedly the best approach to apprehending criminals who are taking advantage of the chaos in the region.

A new militant group called the Niger Delta Searchlight (NDS), has declared it will defy any ceasefire agreement reached with the Federal Government by other armed groups operating in the oil-rich region. The group stated that it is erroneous to assume all the bombings done in the Niger Delta was executed by the Niger Delta Avengers only. It explained: “We have allowed them claim responsibility for every operation to allow for cohesion and order in operation, but it has become obvious that they are compromised, given their choice of representatives”.

They insist on having their own choice of leaders representing their cause on the negotiation table, not the “recycled Abuja politicians who are only using the struggle as an avenue to further appropriate the dividend of our struggles to themselves and their cronies to the detriment of the collective interest of the region.”

Analyst Comments: Such groups and statements further highlight the deeply political and self-seeking nature of the Niger Delta militancy. It is hard to find a resounding solution in the region when the people themselves are deeply divided. The Federal government has approached the situation by engaging the foremost leaders and monarchs who still wield some level of influence among a sizeable chunk of the population.

Although, monarchs are quickly losing the support and respect of the younger population who see the elders as self-serving hence the increase in criminal activity including kidnapping, armed robbery and homicide, directed towards them. Needless to say, approaching a resolution through the “monarch and elders” angle still remains the better option in the interim.

NDGJM Pipeline Attack

Despite the ceasefire deal between the Nigerian government and the Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM), has said it destroyed the Ogor-Oteri major delivery line jointly operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and Shoreline in Delta State.

The Spokesman of the NDGJM, Gen. Aldo Agbalaja said: “At about 0300hrs of today Tuesday, August 30, 2016, the uproot team B of the NDGJM brought down the Ogor-Oteri major delivery line operated by NPDC/Shoreline. Good job boys.”

Analyst Comments: The group claims it carried out these attacks because it lacks confidence in the Clark-led arrangement, saying “he is not the leader of the whole of Niger Delta, he can represent the Ijaw nation, but definitely not all the ethnic nations in the region.” It also cited the ongoing military operation as another reason for their attack.

“We have once warned against the victimisation and harassment of defenseless people of the region, especially in the creeks, but rather than heed, the Nigerian military has increased its presence and made life more difficult for our people. They are now killing our people on the basis of mere suspicion. This can’t continue.” The group said as the military was launching its own “Operation Crocodile Smile”, it would launch its own “Operation Crocodile Tears.” It warned that henceforth, it would be an eye for an eye, and that for every military atrocity carried out in the creeks of the Niger Delta, the Nigerian armed forces would have the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate to contend with.

This NDGJM group is using the exact same strategy as the Niger Delta Avengers. On Friday 19th August, they brought down the major trunkline/delivery line operated by NPDC at 2a.m on Friday in Udu Local Government Area (Urhobo) of Delta State. By Saturday 20 August, they released a statement warning NPDC not to repair the pipeline.

Analyst Comments: The militant group has stated that while it is not opposed to ongoing negotiations going on between the federal government, oil companies and the Ijaw elements in region, it was however not comfortable that it is going on with an impression that it is the whole of Niger Delta that is involved. Indicating that they are more than likely comprised of another ethnic group other than the primarily Ijaw NDA.

Confused Militants Delaying Niger Delta Peace Agreements

The Ministry of Petroleum has admitted what the ND militants have been complaining about which is the lack of action on the part of the federal government in proceeding with the ceasefire negotiations. However, the Ministry explained that this inaction is not as a result of confusion, but as a matter of caution.

Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Mr. Mohammed Garba-Deen, explained that “There is no confusion on the part of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources. If anybody is confused, it is the militants that are confused because they are disorganised. They have refused to organise themselves into one, instead they have NDA, MEND and many others. So under this circumstance, the petroleum ministry is taking its time so that it does not negotiate with the wrong people. And that is not confusion. That is caution. The situation is causing concern and not confusion on our side, because we will like a situation where a credible and authentic group emerges. And whichever group emerges, it should have all the backing of those making agitations in the Niger Delta.”

Analyst Comments: The concerns of the federal government are not unfounded. Communication from the various factions have indicated non-cohesiveness among the various stakeholders. This also points to the selfish nature of the agitations. It is going to be challenging to get all the militants to speak in one accord and agree on the ceasefire simultaneously as those who feel slightly underrepresented or disenfranchised in the negotiation process will be quick to resume attacks.  

Regardless of these challenges, some actions must commence on the part of the Nigerian government primarily in the area of socio-economic development. This needs to start before the militants inevitably lose patience.

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