On Sunday, August 21, 2016, members of the Niger Delta Avengers who have claimed responsibility for the massive destruction of oil facilities in the region, declared ceasefire to hostilities.
This is the first time they have openly agreed to let down their swords and give way to dialogue and create path for peaceful negotiation with the federal government.
The declaration of cease fire
The declaration came barely two days after a dialogue organized by the Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clarke in collaboration with Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa. The duo, with other Niger Delta leaders, pleaded with the militants to sheath their swords as their hostilities have grounded the economy of the nation. Their actions have reduced revenues to states, even to states where the oil is produced, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom, the principal oil producing states in the region.
Most of the states can no longer pay salaries following the drastic reduction of oil revenues. Delta State now pays salaries of junior and senior staff interchangeably, one month for senior staff, level 12 to 17 while the other month for level 1 to 10. Bayelsa State government pays 50 percent of salaries to workers. This, the state governments have resorted to due to the fall in oil price and the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers.
Reduction in oil revenue
For the over six months the Avengers held the oil installations hostage with bombs and grenades, the Nigerian economy came all time low. Oil revenue crash landed, oil installations destroyed and communities in the coastal zones of Bayelsa and Delta bore the brunt of the Avengers’ rage. They were the worse hit as the soldiers launched attacks against the militants whom they supposed were living within the littoral communities.
As they raided the communities, they left behind tales of woes and lamentations. The communities were vandalized, valuables reportedly looted and some ladies raped. Residents fled to nearby bushes while some youths were reportedly whisked away and yet to return to their homes. Community members said the youths were carried away on the 28 of May after the children day celebration.
That was the beginning of organized and massive raid of Gbaramatu kingdom, especially Okporoza, the supposed home of the dreaded militant warlord, Chief Government Ekpemukpolo, aka Tompolo. Youths, women and men, all fled to wherever they could. And while they fled, the soldiers had field days in the communities. They were reported to have stolen valuables from the palace at Okporoza and the symbol of authority from the kingdom which till date is yet to be returned.
The failure of Nigerian soldiers
While the soldiers raided the communities, the bombs went off in other areas leaving the soldiers dazed on the whereabouts of the avengers. The soldiers continuously vowed to bring the avengers down but rather than bringing the avengers down, the avengers brought them down. This was evidenced by the death of many soldiers including the navy while the soldiers arrested innocent youths and branded them avengers.
They deployed various warships, intending to instill fear in the youths but all the efforts of the military to track them down were futile as the rampaging avengers were more knowledgeable of the terrain than the military officers. The sight of warships was only intimidating the ordinary poor citizens but the avengers were nowhere to be found. As the search for the avengers continued, the bombs were going off in other zones to the consternation of the soldiers.
The avengers vowed to wipe out the economy of the nation and bring it to level zero. Their grievances are quite understood. The region that produces the oil that feeds the nation is left in the doldrums, no roads, poor environment, bad water, soil degradation and poverty written boldly on the faces of the people.
The communities are left without power supply, water polluted and the people travel in boats through the high seas to access their villages where the oil is produced and shipped to Abuja, Kaduna, Kano and other Northern cities. While cities as Abuja shine and blossom, the region that produces the oil gropes in darkness and penury.
Ownership of oil wells
The oil wells are owned by the Northern oligarchy who do not labour to eat while the Southerners pay to buy the oil from them. States that do not know the colour of the crude oil before it is refined are feeding fat on the oil revenue. The Niger Deltans are left to struggle and beg for the crumbs from the Northern oligarchies. For anything gets to the South, they must fight before it is given, and on most occasions, it never comes as the representatives of the people are also themselves thieves and robbers.
Demands of the Niger Delta Avengers
However, the call for cessation of hostilities followed the moves of the Niger Delta leaders for the avengers to give the federal government the opportunity to make its promise of developing the region a reality. At the inception of hostilities, Avengers listed 10 point demands which the federal government must meet to bring the rage to a hurt.
Among the demands are; Immediate implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference, President Buhari, the director-general of the State Secret Service and the All Progressives Congress (APC) guber candidate in Bayelsa state, Timipre Sylva should apologize to the people of the Niger Delta region and family of late Chief DSP Alamieyesegha for killing him with intimidation and harassment because of his party affiliation.
The ownership of oil blocks in Nigeria must reflect 60% for the oil producing states and 40% for the non-oil producing people, the only Nigerian Maritime University sited in the most appropriate and befitting place, Okerenkoko in Delta state, must start the 2016/2017 academic session immediately, the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amechi, should apologize to the Ijaws and the entire Niger Delta people for his careless and reckless statement about the citing of the University in Okerenkoko.
Ogoniland and all oil polluted lands in the Niger Delta must be cleaned up, while compensation paid to all oil producing communities. 7. Radio Biafra director and Independent Peoples of Biafra leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, should be released unconditionally, The Niger Delta Amnesty programme must be well funded and allowed to continue to run effectively, all APC members indicted for corruption should be made to face trial like their counterparts in the People’s Democratic Party, all the oil multi-nationals and foreign investors should observe these demands, as their business interests in the country will be first targeted if they fail to do so.
But the federal government has been reluctant to accede to the demands of the avengers, rather it continues to employ the services of soldiers and navy officers to intimidate and coerce the people to bow to its needs. At the inception, the federal government with the soldiers on one side and the avengers on the other side were on daggers drawn as no one was willing to bow to the other. While the struggle for supremacy lasted, the oil installations and the Nigerian economy wasted in rapid succession.
One thing soldiers are known for is their unwillingness to surrender as that could be seen as signs of weakness but rather prefer to forge on even at the detriment of their members. However, as the voice of Niger delta leaders prevailed, the avengers downed their swords to give place for dialogue with the federal government. The negotiation was initiated by the Ijaw National leader, Chief Edwin Clarke.
Prior to the cessation of hostilities, the group attacked various oil platforms in Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom States but principally Delta and Bayelsa. The bombings began on February 10, 2016 at about 1:30 am, when the group attacked the Bonny Soku Gas Export Line in Rivers State.
February 14, it attacked SPDC giant underwater Forcados 48-inch Export Pipeline at the Forcados Export Terminal. O nFebruary 19, at about 3:30 a.m., it blew up the Clough Creek Tebidaba Agip Pipeline Manifold in Bayelsa State. On May 4, it attacked Chevron Valve Platform located at Abiteye.
On May 5, it launched a coordinated attack on the Chevorn Well D25 in Abiteye and blew up major pipelines. On May 13, it bombed a Chevron pipeline at two separate spots near a military location. On May 20, it attacked the Escravos Gas Pipeline, a facility of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in Delta State.
May 25, it struck Chevron main electricity feed pipeline to the Escravos Tank Farm at Ciera creek in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State. May 27, it destroyed the Nembe one, two and three Brass to Bonny trunk lines belonging to Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC in Bayelsa State at about 2.15am.
On Saturday May 27, it blew up NNPC Gas and Crude trunk lines in Warri at 11.45 pm. May 31,it blew up Chevron Oil Well RMP 23 and RMP 24 believed to be the company’s highest swamp producing oil wells at about 3:44 am.
On June 1, it carried out twin-attacks on wells RMP 23 and RMP 24 owned by Chevron Nigeria Limited. On June 2, at about 2.00 am, it bombed the Ogboinbiri to Tebidaba and Clough Creek to Tebidaba Crude oil pipelines in Bayelsa State.
On June 3, it blew up the SPDC Forcados 48″ Export line in Delta State because the company went ahead with repair works against its warning.
Public cessation of hostilities
Spokesman of the group, Brigadier Gen. Mudoch Agbinibo, said the decision to end hostilities came after a Niger Delta stakeholders’ conference to engage the federal government on issues affecting the region. While cessation of hostilities and dialogue continue, Agbinibo said the group will not fail to carry their swords should the government fail to send the army packing from the region they occupy while the battle lasted.
“We will continuously adopt our asymmetric warfare during this period if the Nigerian government and the ruling APC continue to use security agents, formations and politicians to arrest, intimidate, invade and harass innocent citizens, suspected NDA members and invade especially Ijaw communities. We promise to fight more for the Niger Delta if this opportunity fails,” Agbinibo noted.
He further said, “We are going to support any negotiation team emerging from the Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, Niger Delta elders and genuine stakeholders conference to engage with the federal government of Nigeria, representatives from the home countries of all multinational oil corporations and neutral international mediators that will be focused on achieving the short, medium and long term frameworks and objectives to de-escalating conflicts in the Niger Delta.
“Most of the frameworks and objectives are clearly stated in various reports, declarations and recommendations of the likes of the Sir Henry Willinks minority rights reports of pre-independence Nigeria (1957-8), the Kaiama Declaration document, the General Alexander Ogomudia report, the Ledum Mittee headed Niger Delta Technical Committee report and restructuring to fiscal federalism. We have resolved to reject any idea of the peace of our times; we want the peace with honor this time around!
“Our advice to our Niger Delta elders and genuine stakeholders is that, whenever this inhuman project called Nigeria and her government is ready for dialogue or negotiations with them, this mandate should be treated with that care as driving a vehicle like that of a truck laden with fire.
“We are going to continue the observation of our unannounced cessation of hostilities in the Niger Delta against all interest of the multinational oil corporations, but we will continuously adopt our asymmetric warfare during this period if, the Nigerian government and the ruling political APC continues to use security agencies/agents, formations and politicians to arrest, intimidate, invade and harass innocent citizens, suspected NDA members and invade especially Ijaw communities.
“We promise to fight more for the Niger Delta, if this opportunity fails. Therefore, we will give our Niger Delta elders and genuine stakeholders that tacit support to the dialogue table with the government and the multinational oil corporations whenever the enabling environment prevails.
“We also use this medium to warn those using rogue platforms like the defunct so-called MEND, RNDA- Cynthia Whyte especially Charles Okah who is franchising these internet based banditry from his prison cell, through Victor Ebikabowei Ben (Boyloaf), Timipre Silva, Selekaye Ebikabowei, Ayirimi Emami, Michael Johnny, to please inform those their paymasters that the days of doom are here. That those sold and bought up interests from around the corridors of power cannot arm-twist the NDA with bandits, drug addicts, illegal bunkerers, bank robbers and disorganized characters to derail the Niger Delta struggle.”