The Niger Delta Avengers are the latest players in the disrupt Nigeria’s crude oil production game. They are Marvel enthusiasts – you can tell from the name – whose aim according to a statement released by the group’s spokesperson Brigadier-General Mudoch Agbinibo, is to right the wrongs that have been dealt the Niger Deltans since the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri.
“We want our resources back to restore the essence of human life in our region for generations to come because Nigeria has failed to do that. The world should not wait until we go the Sudan ways. Enough is enough.”
The Niger Delta is a region of Nigeria made up of Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Imo and Ondo States, which produce the bulk of the country’s crude oil.
According to Nigerian federal government figures, there were more than 7,000 oil spills between 1970 and 2000. With experts saying it would take up to 25 years and about $ 1 billion to clean up.
For very many years this has been a source of discontent between locals and the oil companies who extract crude from this region.
In 1995, the protests by Ogoni locals led by the late poet, activist and all-round good guy, Ken Saro Wiwa demanding a clean up of the mess culminated in his being hanged by Sani Abacha, along with eight other of his comrades, making up the Ogoni 9.
In 2006, a different kind of activism sprung up in the region involving pipeline vandalism and or blowing, kidnapping of expatriate oil workers with obscene ransom demands and full on siege of oil company offices by the Movement For the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND).
However, by November 2009, months before the unfortunate death, rebirth, and then death again of then President Yar’Adua in May 2010, the government and militants had reached an agreement ensuring a cessation of militant activity and the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which included amnesty deals for ex militants including scholarships to tertiary institutions, stipends, and a promised clean up of the region.
It’s 2016 and the Niger Delta Avengers are here. A militant group who seem to have only one focus in mind: blow as many pipelines as possible. In this endeavour, they have been very successful.
The attacks by the militant group Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) on oil installations in Bayelsa State have effectively grounded the operations of Agip, Aiteo and Shell, with production outages by Agip and Aiteo alone now put at 140,000 barrels daily as from May 2016. At $48 per barrel, an estimated $6.72 million daily is lost by the two operators due to the attacks on oil export pipelines being operated by those two companies, according to Sahara Reporters.
The group understands that in this age where public discourse is carried out on Twitter, its very active twitter feed (@NDAvengers) and user friendly website are a necessity. Via these channels, news of successfully completed bombings and rebuttals of claims by the Nigerian Army are dispensed to fans and critics.
Their actions have however not gone unnoticed. Not by the Nigerian Army who have never been friends of the region and have laid siege to former Militant leader Tompolo’s hometown of Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of the Gbaramatu Kingdom, to find militants who have loudly refuted any ties with the previous crop of militants and who Tompolo (a master of releasing press releases from wherever he is hiding from the EFCC) has said are not in cohorts with him.
“We are not safe, we have said it over and over that Gbaramatu people are not synonymous with Niger Delta Avengers, they should leave my people along. If they want to kill me, let them go ahead, but I will continue to say the truth, why are they harassing my people, they should harass the militants whose activities we condemn,” said Ijaw Leader, Godspower Gbenekama, a day after the army ransacked homes and tried in their own precious misguided way to find the effective elusive rascals.
This is a bad time to be a radical militant. The price of crude oil is at a record low and with alternative sources of power like solar energy springing up, the world is just not that into oil anymore, bad news for a country who relies on crude money, and experiences petrol scarcities virtually every month. It is also bad timing for an army that needs to focus on dealing with the menace of terrorist group Boko Haram, Biafran seperatists (Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB) and killer herdsmen.
Already their actions have been blamed by the triple star Minister of Power, Work, and Housing, Babatunde Fashola as the reason for the very low generation of power in the country.
In May, Vice President Osinbanjo, representing President Buhari, Minister of Works, Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammad, and very many of their aides and their aides’ aides descended on Ogoni land, taking several serious looking photographs and mounting several podiums to deliver long speeches. The gist of it being that after a United Nations Environment Programme 2011 Report, incessant advocating by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), and several militant groups, the clean up of the Niger Delta is finally under way, kicking off in Ogoni land, 21 years after the killing of the Ogoni 9 in 1995.
Each member of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) joint venture is expected to pay a pro-rata share of the $1bn. Members include the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (55% share), SPDC (30%), Total E&P Nigeria (10%) and Agip (5%).
Two questions take centre stage now; will this move to reclaim the pleasures of breathable air and farmable land in the Niger Delta while gainfully employing its citizenry be the first step in nipping the Avengers who have promised to only have a sit down with the government when all of their demands are including the release of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu are met?
And when should we expect the release of an Avengers movie from Nollywood?