News / Africa

Nigerian Militants: Renewed Fighting or PR Campaign?

FILE - Militants from Nigeria's Delta region.
FILE - Militants from Nigeria's Delta region.
Heather Murdock
A Niger Delta militant group that officially disbanded four years ago this week claimed responsibility for an attack on a major oil pipeline and an explosion at an oil refinery in Nigeria. A message said the group is stepping up operations against oil companies and the government. But former militants say the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, is dead and that common thieves committed the crimes.  .
 
Gabriel Ebipadei used to be a gunman, fighting in the creeks of the Niger Delta for what militants said was the people’s fair share of Nigeria’s considerable oil wealth.  

In 2009 he, like tens of thousands of other militants, turned in his weapon in exchange for job training and a stipend.
 
Now, he’s a welder.  As he fixes a part for a motorcycle taxi driver, he says the 2009 amnesty was a success and that guys like him aren’t interested in fighting anymore.  
"People who say they are MEND, one of the largest former militant groups, may be taking responsibility for attacks on pipelines and the massive refinery fire in the city of Warri this week.  But I think that the new group is small, attempting to gain power by putting out statements that take credit for others’ crimes," said Ebipadei.
 
Tensions remain high in the Niger Delta, as oil spills continue to crush the farming and fishing industries and most people live in abject poverty despite residing in a region that has the largest oil output in Africa.  

Many former militants also haven’t been as lucky as Gabriel, and say they now have training-but no jobs.
 
Oil companies say they lose $1 billion a month to thieves.
 
Ignatius Onwuemele, a lawyer in Warri, says even if the original MEND leaders are no longer involved, the Niger Delta is home to many unemployed and angry young men who may see a need for the return of “freedom fighters.”

“If they are claiming responsibility for this attack on the Warri refinery it’s very unfortunate.  For the past two or three years now we have not heard anything rising from them by way of violent activities," said Onwuemele.
 
Renewed violence in the Niger Delta while security forces are occupied with fighting insurgents in the north would, in his opinion, “destroy” Nigeria.
 
The pipeline attacks that MEND claimed responsibility for prompted Shell Petroleum to close major oil pipelines earlier this month and declare that it will not be exporting as much as contracted for this year.
 
In statements released to the local press, MEND said the attacks were a part of an operation to sabotage the oil sector called “Hurricane Exodus.”
 
Outside the burnt refinery in Warri, a day after the fire, local merchants continue to sell black-market fuel openly.  Seller Alex Onofere says Tuesday’s explosion and fire were terrifying.

“They were all running yesterday, seriously.  Including the soldier-men, they were running too, running for their dear life.  So it was really serious," said Onofere.
 
Officials have not yet offered a theory as to how the fire started, but the former leaders of MEND say they were not responsible.

Whether there is a new group of militants claiming the MEND banner remains to be seen.

Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from Warri in the Niger Delta.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid