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Nigerian Delta Militants Threaten Violence Over Arrest of Leader

In Nigeria, the militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, has threatened to cripple the Nigerian oil industry if the government puts its leader, Henry Okah, on trial. Okah was deported by Angola to Nigeria over the weekend.

VOA reporter Chinedu Offor is following developments. From Lagos, he spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the group’s leader.

“Mr. Henry Okah, according to him, he went to Angola to buy fishing trawlers to do business. But according to Nigeria authorities, he was in Angola to purchase arms for his militant group…as a result, he was arrested by Angola and kept in jail while the diplomatic paperwork was concluded. And, according to our sources, he was sneaked into the country over the weekend amid very, very tight security. Currently, he’s at an undisclosed location,” he says.

Offor says much of the violence in the Niger Delta has been blamed on MEND. “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta is the main rebel group in the Niger Delta, fighting according to them, to ensure that there’s and equitable distribution of oil resources…it has the arms, it has the men and it has been responsible for most of the high profile kidnappings and bombings of installations and also killing of some personnel of the Nigerian Military…and they are threatening to cripple the oil industry if their leader is tried and subsequently found guilty by the Nigerian government.

MEND has threatened the blow up some of the many pipelines that crisscross the delta, attack oil tankers waiting offshore and kill oil industry personnel.

Offor says the Nigerian military has been unable to stop the violence in the Delta because MEND knows the area too well and has a great deal of local support due to environmental damage done to the region by oil exploration over the years. It says work by oil companies to clean up the environment or build schools or hospitals is not enough.