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Why Niger Delta Militancy May Continue In 2017

On the 31 December 2016, the Nigerian Army carried out an operation in four camps operated by cultists in Uju community, Ogba Egbema Ndoni Local Government Area, River State. They recovered one AK-47 assault rifle and uniforms belonging to DSP Mohammed Alkali and his police orderly, who were beheaded by cultists.

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Picture: Weapons recovered from the 31 Dec 2016 operation carried out on the Cultist camp in Uju Community, Ogba Ebema Ndoni LGA, Rivers State. Source: Vanguard

The fact that cultists are still able to amass sophisticated military and law enforcement gear in bulk and pristine condition is disturbing. It is also indicative that the Rivers State Amnesty program for cultists and criminals may not have been entirely successful. Another worrying development is the fact that during the Rivers election, those accused of electoral violence were primarily law enforcement officials and some cultists.

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Picture: A cross section of arms, ammunitions and explosives recovered at the close of the Rivers State Amnesty Programme at the Government House, Port Harcourt in November 2016. Source: Today.ng

The International Maritime Bureau released a report stating that maritime kidnapping had hit a ten year high in 2016. The Gulf of Guinea was a kidnap hotspot with attacks off the coast of Nigeria rising from 14 in 2015, to 36 in 2016. Proceeds from kidnap ransom are usually used to purchase more arms.

Illicit trafficking especially arms and drugs trafficking are still issues the Nigerian government agencies have not been able to successfully tackle. Both illicit goods frequently find their way into the Niger Delta exacerbating militancy, kidnapping, cultism and other crimes in the region. Proceeds are again used to purchase more arms.

 

NIGER DELTA MILITANCY

 

The Niger Delta militants ceased fire and stopped attacking pipelines for most of the 4th quarter of 2016. According to the Urhobo militant faction NDGJM, pipeline attacks were ceased “for strategic reasons, as they were following the events in the region and monitoring developments in order to design their next line of action in the New Year.”

The Ijaw militant faction NDA were also quiet for most of that time but resurfaced towards the end of 2016 in response to the 26 Dec 2016 interview in which President Buhari stated he was ready to dialogue with Niger Delta militants instead of fighting them. NDA responded accusing the FG of insincerity on resolving the Niger Delta crisis stating they were “not aware of who the President has been dialoguing with”.

Finally, on the 6th January, Niger Delta Avengers released a statement on their website saying they were getting ready to launch twin operations to halt Nigeria’s oil production. This attack was in response to the insincerity of the federal government.

While many Niger Delta militant groups make numerous threats without actually following through, these two groups, NDGJM and NDA have been known to carry out their threats. The threats made by NDA in their recent statement are especially audacious and ominous.

Bulwark Intelligence analysts assess that the Niger Delta militants will once again resume their bombing activities on pipelines. It is still unclear whether or not the militant groups will start targeting and attacking oil & gas personnel and oil installations, but this is certainly a possibility.

The challenge the FG will have in averting a resurgence is in first preventing the distribution of arms and weapons especially in the area of drug and arms trafficking. Second challenge the FG will have is in winning over the locals to aid them in stopping attacks. The relationship is not the best and the only way to win the war is to win the people.

Niger Delta states at high security risk area. For more security, threat information on specific locations in the Niger Delta, send in an RFI request.

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