On 17 January the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) published a communiqué promising violent disruption in Nigeria’s oil-rich southeast. In the announcement, the militant group wished Nigerians a “Happy Doomed Year” and promised a renewed round of deadly attacks targeting multinational oil companies operating in the region. The NDA singled out a number of specific targets: the Bonga Platform, Agbami, EA Field, Britania-U Field, Akpo Field and the Egina FPSO, which is soon to be transported to Nigeria from South Korea. The threats come just over two months after the end of NDA’s ceasefire, in place since August 2016. In November 2017 the NDA declared the recommencement of Operation Red Economy, which promises the bloodiest, most brutal attacks yet to “bring the Nigerian economy to [a] targeted zero daily production” and to establish a “united and free Niger Delta.”
The NDA formed in the early months of 2016. One of their first communiqués, released in February 2016 following their attack on the Bonny Soku Gas Export Line, explained that the NDA had “taken it upon themselves to start a war against all oil and gas companies in the region.” The group is one of many in Nigeria’s south that abject the presence of multinational oil companies, who, they believe, have exploited the region for its wealth without giving anything in return. The revenue from oil extraction is not distributed throughout the communities across the Niger Delta, and the enormous potential profits have encouraged corruption among politicians and military generals. In addition, oil companies have been widely criticised for failing to clean up after their operations. In 2011 the UN Environment Programme (Unep) report into pollution in the Ogoniland region concluded that Shell and other oil companies were responsible for serious contamination of lands and underground water courses in the area, with devastating consequences for environmental and personal health. In November 2017, for example, The Guardian reported that babies conceived near an oil spill are twice as likely to die in the first month of their life. Groups such as the NDA are lashing out at oil companies in response to these conditions.
The NDA attacks, if carried out, have the potential to be devastating. In 2016 the group carried out attacks on oil installations and pipelines that resulted in a drop in oil production from over 2.2 million barrels per day (mbpd) to an all-time low of almost 1mbpd. This contributed to the Nigerian economy falling into recession, from which it only began to recover after the NDA ceasefire was announced in August 2016. Since crude oil sales account for around two-thirds of government revenue, the potential implications of this latest round of promised attacks should not be underestimated, especially since the NDA has promised that attacks in 2018 will be more brutal than ever: “We can assure you that every oil installation in our region will feel warmth of the wrath of the Niger Delta Avengers.”
Despite their threats, since their declaration of the end of the ceasefire in November 2017, an attack has yet to be carried out. It is possible that the latest threats are more of a political exercise than a military one, aimed at pressuring the federal government (FG) into doing more for development in the region. Indeed, in November the FG responded to threats made by the NDA and the Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders (NDRC) with the promise of a new action plan for the Niger Delta region that included increased budgetary allocations to the Niger Delta Development Commission, the Maritime University in Delta state, the Ogoni clean-up exercise, the Presidential Amnesty Programme, and investments in regional infrastructure such as roads and ports. The announcement of 17 January bemoans the lack of “meaningful results” from the government’s promises and denounces the allocation of funds to fighting Boko Haram in the north while conditions remain poor in the south. If Nigeria’s FG wishes to avoid a damaging campaign of violence similar to that of 2016, it will need to be seen to effectively address southern militants’ grievances and to hope that it is not too late for political concessions. In the meantime, NYA provide essential services for vessels transiting through Nigerian waters, such as close monitoring of the piracy and militancy threat situation closely and expert ship security recommendations.