Tag Archives: Niger Delta

The Niger Deltans 1992-2016

Niger Delta states of Nigeria. image from wikipedia

They call themselves the Niger Delta Avengers. Little is known about the new radical group that has claimed a series of pipeline bombings in Nigeria’s oil-producing region this year and evaded gunboats and soldiers trawling swamps and villages.  Their attacks have driven Nigerian oil output to near a 22-year low and, if the violence escalates into another insurgency in the restive area, it could cripple production in a country facing a growing economic crisis.

President Muhammadu Buhari has said he will crush the militants, but a wide-scale conflict could stretch security forces already battling a northern rebellion by hardline Sunni Muslim group Boko Haram.  Militancy has been rife over the past decade in the Delta, a southern region which is one of the country’s poorest areas despite generating 70 percent of state income.

Violence has increased sharply this year – most of it claimed by the “Avengers” – after Buhari scaled back an amnesty deal with rebel groups, which had ended a 2004-2009 insurgency.Under the deal, more state cash was channelled to the region for job training and militant groups were handed contracts to protect the pipelines they once bombed. But Buhari cut the budget allocated to the plan by about 70 percent and cancelled the contracts, citing corruption and mismanagement of funds.

The “Avengers” have carried out a string of attacks since February 2016… The group has emailed journalists a statement saying they were fighting for an independent Delta and would step up their attacks unless oil firms left the region within two weeks.”If at the end of the ultimatum you are still operating, we will blow up all the locations,” it said. “It will be bloody. So just shut down your operations and leave.””To international oil companies, this is just the beginning and you have not seen anything yet. We will make you suffer,” it said.

Authorities have no hard facts about the group – such as its size, bases or leadership…Diplomats and security experts say it has shown a level of sophistication not seen since the peak of the 2004-2009 insurgency, which halved Nigeria’s oil output. They say it must be getting help from sympathetic oil workers in identifying the pipelines to cause maximum damage….

In February 2016 the group claimed an attack on an undersea pipeline, forcing Shell to shut a 250,000 barrels a day Forcados terminal. In May 2016, it took credit for blasting a Chevron platform, shutting the Warri and Kaduna refineries…

Reuters, like other media, has been unable to reach the group, which mainly communicates via Twitter, with the location tracker switched off, and on its website.Its members describe themselves there as “young, well travelled” and mostly educated in eastern Europe.

Given the lack of intelligence about the militants, the army launched a wide-ranging hunt across the Delta this week, sending gunboats into mosquito-infested creeks and searching villages in the middle of the night. But some residents say such a heavy-handed military approach stokes dissent in the Delta where many complain of poverty despite sitting on much of Nigeria’s energy wealth. They say some villagers help militants to hide in the hard-to-access swamps….

Executives [oil firms in Nigeria] met Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in May 2016 and one of them warned the government was being “too direct and blunt” and needed to find some balance, according to a source familiar with the discussions….Many locals in the Christian south see Buhari, a Muslim northerner, as an oppressor.

Excerpts ‘Avengers’ threaten new insurgency in Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta, Reuters, May 16, 2016

According to their website: The Nigerian State is like the biblical Egypt, the Government of the Federation is like the Biblical Pharaohs, President Buhari is like the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses, the Niger Delta People are like the Jews while the Niger Delta Avengers is Moses. So all we are asking is let our people go (NIGER DELTANS).

See also UN on Ogoniland oil damage

Shell Nigeria and the Ogoni People

Nigeria

Shell in Nigeria: Oil Pollution and Human Rights Abuses

A group of 11,000 Nigerians launched a suit against Royal Dutch Shell at the London High Court on Friday, (March 23, 2012) seeking tens of millions of dollars in compensation for two oil spills in 2008 that they say destroyed their livelihoods. The case will be closely watched by the industry for precedents that could have an impact on other big claims against Western oil companies accused of polluting poor countries, including Chevron’s protracted dispute with Ecuador.

SPDC, a Shell-run joint venture between Nigeria’s state oil firm, Shell, EPNL and Agip, has admitted responsibility for two spills that devastated the Bodo fishing communities in the restive Niger Delta, where a maze of pipelines criss-cross mangrove swamps and creeks.  But Shell and the London lawyers representing the claimants disagree about how much oil was spilt and how much compensation they should get. Talks to resolve it broke down last week.  “They made an offer and the community quite rightly said this is ridiculously low,” said Martyn Day, of the London law firm Leigh Day & Co, who is leading legal proceedings. He said his hope was to resume negotiations with Shell at some point.  Day declined to say how much Shell had offered. He said his clients would be claiming “many millions of dollars” through the High Court, but there was no precise figure because there were 11,000 claimants so far but more might join the action later.

Shell says 4,000 barrels of oil in total were spilt in Bodo in 2008 as a result of operational failures and a clean-up was completed in 2009. It says that since then, more oil has been spilt due to sabotage and oil theft, known as “bunkering“…..

Day disputed this. He said experts had put the amount spilt because of Shell’s two operational failures at 600,000 barrels, and that any bunkering that took place in the area would account for no more than 1 percent of that.  In a report in November 2011, human rights group Amnesty International blamed Shell for spilling 280,000 barrels in Bodo and called on it to pay $1 billion to clean up the Niger Delta.  If the figures given by Amnesty or by Day are close to the truth, that would make the Bodo spill one of the biggest in history. By comparison, the volume spilt in Alaska in the Exxon Valdez disaster was estimated at 257,000 barrels.  The discrepancies between the different estimates of the Bodo spills illustrate how hard it is to get an accurate picture of what goes on in the remote creeks of the Delta.

In a region where millions of people scrape a living from subsistence fishing or farming and live in mud-huts with no electricity, the presence for decades of a multi-billion-dollar oil industry with its high-tech equipment and luxurious compounds for expatriate workers has led to deep resentment.  Pipeline sabotage by militants campaigning for a greater share of oil revenues, or by local criminals looking to benefit from clean-up contracts, are common there.

Industry experts say bunkering may have siphoned off as much as 20 percent of Nigerian production. Kidnappings for ransom of foreign workers have also been a problem at certain periods, and governments have responded by paying off the gangs.

Rivalries between neighbouring communities over their perceived rights to compensation or other revenues to be had from oil companies operating in their areas frequently boil over into violent conflict, adding to the Delta’s poisonous mix.  SPDC’s Sunmonu gave a flavour of this on Friday when he told BBC Radio 4 that the company wanted to help but there was “lots of intra-communal strife making it difficult for anyone to have meaningful negotiations”. He said lots of people who claimed to have been affected by the Bodo spills were lying.  The Bodo case is particularly troublesome for Shell because the area is in Ogoniland, a part of the Delta that was the scene of one of the company’s worst public relations disasters.  In 1995, nine Ogoni activists including the environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who had been campaigning against Shell’s activities in his homeland, were tried on trumped-up charges and hanged by the then military dictatorship of Sani Abacha.  Saro-Wiwa has become a martyr to many environmental activists around the world. Although Shell was not directly responsible for his death, it was widely blamed for cooperating with Abacha’s brutal and corrupt regime.

The case has echoes of a legal saga involving Chevron’s operations in Ecuador that has spanned nearly two decades.

REFILE-Nigerians sue Shell in London over Delta pollution, Reuters, Mar. 23, 2012