The Niger Delta militancy has been a recurring decimal in Nigeria and doesn’t look like it is ending anytime soon.
The granting of amnesty to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta had grounded militancy in the oil-rich region. But since President Muhammadu Buhari came into power on May 29, 2015, there’s been a resurgence.
For months now, militants in the Niger Delta region have launched a war against the federal government, blowing up oil facilities in the region. The militants have vowed not to stop until they cripple the economy and zero oil is produced in the region.
It is fair to conclude that the renewed agitation and vandalism is targeted at President Buhari’s administration.
With the series of attacks carried out by the Niger Delta militants, the country’s crude oil production which reached 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2015 has dropped to about 800,000 barrels per day. Their activities is also said to have impacted negatively on power supply in the country.
In June, the federal government and militant groups in the Niger Delta were said to have agreed to a 30-day ceasefire but the militants kept blowing up oil facilities.
The federal government settled for dialogue with the militants to bring peace to the Niger Delta region.
However, the militants refused negotiating with the government. They also gave the government conditions for peace.
Surprisingly, the Niger Delta Avengers announced a ceasefire, saying they were ready to resume talks with the Nigerian government after months of attacks on the country’s oil and gas infrastructure.
Despite this, some militant groups are still attacking oil and gas facilities and it seems like the militancy in the region is not ending anytime soon.
Here are some reasons why the crisis in the Niger Delta region may not be resolved soon.
1. Their demands: Some of the demands of the Niger Delta militants are that the country should be restructured and the ownership of oil blocks must reflect 60 per cent for the oil-producing people and 40 per cent for others. They also want the nation’s only maritime university to be located in the most befitting place and must start the 2015/2016 academic session immediately. It seems like the government is not ready to give in to the demands of the militants. Buhari will not be considering relinquishing federal government’s control of oil to the Niger Delta. So, if the militants are expecting Buhari to give them control of the oil in the region, they have to wait a really long time.
2. To dialogue or not to dialogue: While some are asking the government to engage the militants in dialogue, others are advising the government against it. A number of ex-Niger Delta militants have warned the government against dialoguing with the Niger Delta Avengers. Their reason being that, it would fuel full-scale militancy in the region and push youths of other ethnic groups to take up arms against the government. On the other hand, Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark, urged President Buhari to negotiate with the militants.
However, Buhari has said the federal government won't fail to use force should the militants refuse to embrace dialogue as offered by the government.
3. Various militant groups: New militant groups keep emerging. Surely, most people would have lost count already. The most popular among the militant groups is the Niger Delta Avengers. They have claimed responsibility for a number of attacks. Aside the Avengers, there are others like the Niger Delta Red Squad, Niger Delta Volunteers, Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate. Apparently, they are all agitating for different things. Which of these militant groups would the FG dialogue with?
4. Disunity: Some militant groups in the region are buying into the dialogue process, others are not ready to give up their arms and are bent on causing havoc in the region. As one group is announcing ceasefire, another group is blowing up oil facilities. On Monday, the Avengers wrote an open letter to Buhari, saying it would stop its hostilities in the region. Less than 24hours later, another militant group blew up a major delivery line, operated by the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company in Delta state. The militants are not speaking with one voice. Each militant group has its own agenda so it’s going to be hard reaching an agreement with each and every one of them.
5. The use of army to combat the militants: Troops have been deployed to Niger Delta region to combat insurgency in the area. The government has been accused of using security operatives to arrest intimidate, invade and harass innocent citizens. Militants have claimed that ongoing military operations in the creeks of Ijaw communities in the Delta were pre-determined genocide in the Niger Delta. The insurgents have warned that if the military continues to harass people in the region, it would not hesitate to fight back. Recently, an Urhobo militant group said it would be an eye for an eye, adding that for every military atrocity carried out in the creeks of the Niger Delta, the Nigerian armed forces will have them to contend with. Sometime in May, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond advised Buhari that using a military confrontation could end in “disaster.
It seems the president may take a forceful approach if the militants refuse to embrace dialogue. Speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on the sidelines of the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Nairobi, Kenya, Buhari said: "The militants must dialogue with the Federal government or be dealt with in the same way like Boko Haram. We are talking to some of their leaders. We will deal with them as we dealt with Boko Haram if they refuse to talk to us.”
6. Militants don’t trust Buhari: The militants are of the opinion that President Buhari is insincere and should not be trusted. Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka recently said the Niger Delta agitators feel that the government of Buhari is not seriously responding to their own outrage. In a letter to the president on Monday, August 29, by the Avengers, the group claimed that the military operation code named Operation Crocodile Smile betrayed Buhari’s attitude and motive about the Niger Delta question. Would the militants be willing to negotiate with a government they do not trust?
7. Niger Delta governors remain silent: Since the Niger Delta militants started their agitation, the governors in the region have not been able to come together to discuss the way forward and reach out to the aggrieved youths.