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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs