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New Tactics, Same Goals as Nigeria Oil Insurgency Intensifies


FILE - Nigeria's amnesty program for ex-militants was begun in 2009 to stop the sabotage of oil facilities, like this attack on a pipeline in Andoni in December 2005. Now, a new insurgency has risen up in the area.

FILE - Nigeria's amnesty program for ex-militants was begun in 2009 to stop the sabotage of oil facilities, like this attack on a pipeline in Andoni in December 2005. Now, a new insurgency has risen up in the area.

First, it was the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. Now, it's the Niger Delta Avengers.

The Avengers have taken credit for bombings that affected major pipelines in the delta, including the Nembe and Forcados pipelines.

The attacks have disrupted the supply of natural gas to Nigeria's power plants, leading to extended blackouts across the country.

Dolapo Oni, head of energy research at Ecobank, said the attacks have also led to cuts in oil exports in three of Nigeria's oil grades. He says daily production may be down to less than 1 million barrels, from the normal 2.2 million per day.

"We're talking about the most important grades in Nigeria,” he said.

MEND, as the previous militancy was called, faded away after the government instituted an amnesty program in 2009 that gave ex-militants monthly stipends and enrolled some in training programs.

The identity of the Avengers is unknown, but Antony Goldman, director of Promedia Consulting, says the new group has learned a thing or two since the days of MEND. Members have taken to Twitter to announce attacks. They also have a blog where they list demands and have threatened Nigeria's military and oil majors like Shell and Chevron, both of whom they've attacked.

FILE - Land has been polluted by oil in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, March 9, 2016.

FILE - Land has been polluted by oil in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, March 9, 2016.

While MEND kidnapped — and occasionally killed — oil workers, the Avengers seem more interested in destroying petroleum infrastructure.

"This isn't a group that is looking to engage, particularly with the armed forces,” Goldman said. “It's not a group that has found to kidnap and ransom in that way that maybe is the case with earlier incarnations of militants."

Nor are they necessarily members of the previous insurgency, as they've feuded publicly with Government Ekpemupolo, known as Tompolo, a prominent former militant who is wanted by Nigeria's anti-graft agency.

Niger Delta activist Annkio Briggs says that while the tactics may have changed, the reasons for the insurgency are the same as when MEND took to arms. The group's demands include a redistribution of the ownership of oil blocks and a cleanup of spills in the delta.

Residents of the region have struggled with widespread poverty and polluted lands for decades.

"They're still talking about the same issues of the Niger Delta," Briggs said.

In a statement Wednesday, the military said it would stop the "economic saboteurs" in the Niger Delta.

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