Lagos - The Niger Delta Avengers could present a
bigger problem to Nigeria than the deadly terror perpetrated by the Islamic
militant Boko Haram sect, an international security think-tank has said.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS), based in
Johannesburg, South Africa, pointed out since the beginning of this year, the armed
militant group has been attacking oil facilities in the country’s oil-rich
Niger Delta .
The violence has shut down several oil wells, claimed dozens
of lives and forced major companies such as Shell and Chevron to evacuate staff
and halt production in some areas. It’s also had a devastating impact on
production, with Nigeria’s output of crude is at a 22-year low.
Martin Ewi, a senior researcher at the ISS, noted sustained
attacks on oil facilities will affect production and the cost of petrol.
“Prices will rise, and Nigeria will have to start importing
petrol more than it does now. This might also lead to mass protests, which
could destabilise the whole country. Nigeria simply can’t afford to sustain
this insurgency for the same amount of time as it has done with Boko Haram,” said Ewi.
Also read: Cancel your visit to Niger Delta or die!, Avengers warn
Ewi said already, however, there were signs that this
insurgency would be even harder to contain than previous outbreaks of violence
in the Niger Delta.
He said some developments were particularly ominous as far
as President Buhari’s administration was concerned.
The first is the public antipathy between the Niger Delta
Avengers – whose members claim to be young and well-educated – and former
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) militants.
“The Avengers have been very critical of militants who
reached any kind of accommodation with the government, especially of those
accepting payments, which – if genuine – suggests that they may be harder to
negotiate with,”noted Ewi.
Simon Allison, ISS Consultant, said so far, Buhari’s
administration had responded to the growing threat in an “all-too typical
fashion” with force and threats.
Recently, five warships and 100 gunboats were dispatched to
the creeks of the Niger Delta, joining air force fighter jets and helicopters
that were already there.
Meanwhile, the army has been occupying key community centres
and displacing some local residents, according to media reports.
“It’s far from clear that this strong military response will
deliver results, especially given the complexity of the Niger Delta’s terrain,” said Allison.
The Niger Delta Avengers compounds the woes of a country
that has over the past seven years battled the Boko Haram, which has claimed
the lives of over 20 000 civilians and displaced more than 3 million.
- CAJ News