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Delta Avengers could spill bigger crisis than Boko Haram

07 June 2016, 20:33

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 Buhari

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


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