Niger Delta Avengers Why militant group just promised Nigeria a “doomed year”

The militants have made a set of demands that the president might not be willing to accept.

After months of abiding by a ceasefire agreement reached with the Federal Government, militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), is ready to unleash a “doomed year” on the country.

In a statement released by the NDA’s spokesperson, Murdoch Agbinibo, on Wednesday, January 17, 2018, the aggrieved group has decided to launch a fresh round of attacks on the country’s oil installations in the coming days.

Agbinibo warned that, unlike previous threats that were not followed through because of interventions from the region’s elders, the group will not be persuaded to go back on its word this time around until the Federal Government takes heed to its demands.

He said the planned attacks will target the deep sea operations of oil multinationals that include Bonga Platform, Agbami, EA Field, Britania-U Field and Akpo Field.

Who are the Avengers?

The Niger Delta Avengers started its operations in 2016.

The group emerged around the same time that President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly reached the decision to phase out the Presidential Amnesty Programme, introduced in 2009, to assist in the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and provision of reintegration assistance to repentant militants.

The group orchestrated relentless attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta region so much that it started to cripple operations.

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The militants’ strike teams are spread across states like Rivers, Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Cross River and Akwa Ibom.

Between January and November 2016, the group took credit for at least 45 attacks that led to the shutdown of countless oil terminals and forced major oil companies like Shell, Agip and Chevron to cease operations and withdraw their staff.

This resulted in the fall of the country’s oil production, causing harm to the economy and government revenue.

The group’s major demand has always been to ensure people of the region benefit from the rewards of the product of their lands.

Ceasefire agreement

In peace talks that were formally launched in November 2016, the NDA reached a ceasefire agreement with the Federal Government following talks led by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu.

The agreement was reportedly made in the hopes that it would give President Buhari time to execute a comprehensive plan that would greatly benefit the oil-rich region.

Since that agreement was reached, the group has repeatedly threatened to walk back on it and resume its destructive bombings.

However, they always encounter resistance from elders of the region who always intervene to calm the situation.

The group’s last major threat to cancel the ceasefire agreement was in November 2017 when it promised a “brutish, brutal and bloody” campaign of violence against “every oil installation in our region”.

Again, the group failed to carry out its threat after interventions by elders in the region.

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Why is the group back now?

In the Wednesday statement released by Agbinibo, the group wants the Federal Government to restructure the country.

He revealed that the group’s ‘High Command’ has decided that any Nigerian that is against restructuring is its enemy and an enemy of the Nigerian state.

Therefore, the group is telling the Federal Government to restructure the country so as to allow the Niger Delta to control its resources and directly use them to improve the region.

The group is critical of the government for withdrawing N1 billion from the Excess Crude Account to fund the war against terrorist group, Boko Haram in the northeast, at the detriment of the array of challenges facing the Niger Delta region.

The group also demanded the immediate release of all Niger Deltan activists and freedom fighters that are held captive by the Nigeria Armed Forces. This demand is triggered by the recent decision of the Nigerian Army to release 244 Boko Haram suspects to the Borno State government.

With the group branding the meddling Niger Delta elders as irresponsible and accusing the Federal Government of gross insincerity, the NDA’s threat this time might be the beginning of another violent assault on the country’s fragile security state.

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