It reawakens the uprising in Nigeria’s Niger Delta

For months, Nigerian government under President Buhari is not alone in having to deal with the emergency in the northeast represented by the threat of Boko Haram Islamic extremists, but is also forced to having to deal with the resurgence of the rebellion in southeastern region of the Niger Delta. An area that covers 70 thousand square kilometers includes nine federal states and covers more than 80% of the national production of hydrocarbons, contributing decisively to make for a long time Nigeria as first African oil producer and 12th worldwide.

Photo from website thewhistler.ng

However, dates released last month by the Organization of exporting crude Countries (OPEC), determine that Nigeria has lost its Africa’s top oil producer status to Angola.The overtaken by southern Africa country was produced by the significant fall Nigerian crude production. A decline largely due to the repeated attacks on oil installations, which in March fell to 1.69 million barrels per day.

A deep decrease that led Nigeria’s oil export at lowest level in 22 years, as confirmed by the International Energy Agency (IEA), noting that a similar volume in Delta not seen since June 2007, while to detect an even lower value must go back to 1994, when production fell to 1.46 million barrels.

In a country where oil export revenues account for about 70% of state budget revenues, a so heightened slowdown production represents a significant blow to the Nigerian finances. Moreover, already strained by the dramatic crash in crude oil prices, which currently fluctuates around $ 45 a barrel, very different from its peak of 114 recorded in June 2014.

The Avengers of the Delta

Behind the new wave of attacks on oil infrastructure have the signature of the militants of the “Niger Delta Avengers”, a newly formed group, which aims to destabilize the strategic area for the national oil export with attacks directed against the platforms of multinational companies.

According to the Nigerian newspaper “The Herald”, the rebels would have compiled a list of ten demands, addressed to the president Buhari. Some unconfirmed reports revealed that the militants would be ready to crumble the economy of African giant, if their demands were not met.

Last weekend, a series of attacks on the oil platforms Chevron had forced the American majors to the closure of its Okan terminal, from which pass 35 thousand barrels per day. While the threats of possible attacks caused the evacuation of plant workers Bonga, owned by Royal Dutch Shell, which last February had also closed the Forcados terminal, with a capacity of 250 thousand barrels per day.

The cessation of activities in the platform had been decided following the attack operated by divers belonging to the faction of the former leader of the militants of the Niger Delta, Government Ekpemupolo, best known as “Tompolo”, for which in January had been issued an arrest warrant.

Even in the last hours violence occurred, as evidenced by what happened last Monday, near the Okobie community, near the town of Yenagoa (Bayelsa state capital of the Delta), where a group of armed men killed four police officers in an ambush.

The causes for the outbreak of new crises

The situation is so serious that the trade unions have called for the evacuation of personnel employed in the oil facilities in the region. The succession of the violence has also triggered fears that militants may rekindle the revolt-quelled amnesty concluded in October 2009, by President Yar’Adua and the main Niger Delta’s guerrilla leader.

Observers believe that, as in the past decade, the roots in the new crisis are once again the economic demands of the local community, which complains about the lack of a fair distribution of the oil wealth in one of the poorest regions of the planet.

The profits of this huge flow of money have enriched only local potentates and rulers of Abuja. Even the criminal gangs that control the territory they have profited, while Delta was hopelessly devastated by uncontrolled extractive activities, which caused very serious damage to the environment.

Damage amply documented by detailed studies carried out by UN Environment Programme (UNEP), as well as reports of some NGOs such as Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth International and Environmental Rights Action.

In recent months, the Buhari government with the help of Chad, Niger and Cameroon has shown good results in the fight against Boko Haram fanatic Islamists, which by their blind cruelty have lost much popular support.

In Delta, the situation is quite different because the control of the area is the goal of all the oligarchs and criminal rulers of the country. The rampant violence in recent months shows that the 2009 Armistice has only formally ended the guerrilla militant groups, but failed to resolve the causes of a conflict that threatens to destabilize the entire Nigeria again.

@afrofocus

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