Naturally, once you get militant rebel groups forming you also get a new power structure with its own elite and elitism. This was true for the Palestinians, and it was true for the Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland, to give two significant recent examples. At some point, even if there is not an overwhelming reason to keep fighting … in reference to the cause or causes that originally gave birth to the militantism … the elite militants will find a way to keep themselves in power.
At this point, in Nigeria, we may be at a tipping point of sorts. With increased international attention focused on oil exploitation, and a long period of time over which the same disgustingly corrupt system has been in place, the Nigerian situation appears to be heating up.
Over the last few days, there have been a number of incidents (see below) indicating a notable escalation. Militant leaders are now vowing that a major action will take place soon, possibly this weekend. Security warnings are going out to ex-patriots in the region. Expect the ongoing, in the background events that never boil to the top of the US news ticker to emerge on the front page any time over the next few days.
The following is a summary of some of the recent events in the region. Just over the last couple of days there have been numerous reports of events that have not hit the news yet, or have been reproted but are still not sorted out (it is unclear to me how many hostages there are, there are some reports of killing, and one report of a plane crash). So the following is only a bare skeleton of what is going on. It does, however, give an idea of the nature of the escalating situation.
The treason trial of suspected Nigerian militant Henry Okah resumes Monday at a closed federal high court in the central city of Jos. From the Nigerian capital Abuja, Gilbert da Costa reports Okah could face additional charges.
Henry Okah, a suspected leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, is facing 55 counts of treason, terrorism, illegal possession of firearms and arms trafficking.
“They’ve increased the charges from 55 to 62,” said the lawyer. “They want to pre-empt our appeal but it won’t be acceptable to us. Already, we are on appeal and one of the things we are appealing against is the fact that out of the 55 charges, the judges only read out two to him. By criminal procedure law, they are supposed to read all of them, even if he keeps mute or not. This is the fourth time they are amending the charges since we started.” [source]
A previously declared cease fire called off by A leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. [source]
Nigeria’s biggest construction firm, Julius Berger, is pulling out of the oil-producing Niger Delta because of the deteriorating security situation there, a senior company executive said on Saturday.
Gunmen kidnapped two Germans working for the firm, the Nigerian unit of German builder Bilfinger Berger, on Friday, blowing their armoured vehicle off the road with dynamite and killing a soldier in their convoy.
The ambush by around 15 gunmen on three senior employees, who were travelling in armoured jeeps accompanied by 28 soldiers, had been so brutal that there was no alternative but to suspend operations, the company official said.
“The current security environment makes it impossible for us to continue our operations in the Niger Delta and to protect our employees,” he told Reuters, asking not to be named for security reasons while staff were being pulled out.
“Since yesterday, we have already stopped at our three major sites,” he said.
Friday’s attack was the latest on expatriates working in the Niger Delta, the home of Africa’s biggest oil industry, which has become notorious for kidnappings and raids on oil sites since militants launched a campaign of sabotage two years ago. [source]
Abuja – Niger Delta militants abducted five Russians on board a Swedish vessel, the Herkules, offshore Bonny River Friday, security officials said.
The vessel was sailing to Akpo oil field when the militants seized it at 19 nautical miles offshore. it was on charter to Saipem, a subsidiary of ENI group of Italy.
Local reports said that 11 Russians and one Ukrainian were on board the vessel when the militants attacked it from speedboats.
The militants took control of the vessel and steered it toward Sombereiro River, 15 nautical miles west of Bonny River, the reports said.
The militants later freed seven of those on board and took five Russians hostage. [source]
The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta has deployed gunboats in the Chanomi Creeks in Delta State, following threats by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta to blow up the pipelines of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in the area.
Saturday Punch gathered that the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Owoye Azazi, handed down the order to the Commander of JTF, Brig.-Gen. Wuyep Rimtip. MEND threatened to destroy the pipeline, identified as System 2C and other major oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region, within 30 days to prove that it did not collect protection funds from the NNPC. The NNPC Group Managing Director, Mr. Abubakar Lawal Yar’Adua, had claimed that $12 million was paid to militants in the region for pipeline protection but MEND said it did not receive such funds which it described as “Jacob’s bowl of porridge.”[source]
… and …
The main militant group in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta said on Wednesday it would attack major oil pipelines in the next 30 days to prove it had not received payment from the government to end its campaign. The head of the state-run oil firm NNPC was quoted in Nigerian newspapers on Wednesday as saying the company had paid militant groups $12 million (6 million pounds) to protect facilities including the Chanomi creek pipeline in Delta state. NNPC later issued a statement saying it had… [source]
Oil workers in the region are at present on lockdown awaiting opportunities to evacuate or, if things settle down, going back to work. A threat has been made against government or police units in the region.