The Niger Delta Avengers

Newsweek Europe recently published an article that highlights the financial losses incurred by the Nigerian government because of militant activity in the Niger Delta region.  Militant groups attacking oil facilities cost Nigeria $4.8 billion in 2016, according to the article, which offers a holistic picture of the militants’ impact. The article is accompanied by a 1:30 video.

The video and the article both emphasize that the main militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), has wrecked havoc in the Niger Delta region, described in the article as “a vast, oil-rich swampland in southern Nigeria.” The article stresses that the aims of the NDA are twofold: to guarantee a more fair distribution of Nigeria’s oil wealth, especially to people living in the Niger Delta, and to begin a cleanup of the areas impacted oil spills over the years. The NDA’s main tactic is attacking oil infrastructure, which, as the article points out, has cut Nigeria’s oil production by nearly 50 percent. According to OPEC, more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s export revenues come from oil products.

The Newsweek article does not describe the role of Shell and other oil companies in the environmental degradation experienced in the Delta, but you can read more about that in this issue of “African Arguments,” which lays out Shell’s attempt to have the legal case against it thrown out in the UK courts. Writer Joe Westby argues that Shell carries substantial responsibility for the oil damage done over the last 50 years.

The NDA and other militant groups have agreed upon multiple ceasefires with the government, but none of them have lasted for a significant period of time. The managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Maikanti Baru, told a conference in Abuja that 59 attacks on facilities that resulted in partial or full shutdown had been recorded.

However, the Newsweek article did note that Nigeria’s oil minister announced that $10 billion of investment would be going to the Niger Delta to develop regional infrastructure and security. In addition, President Muhammadu Buhari began a $1 billion cleanup project in a part of the Delta that has seen frequent oil spills over the years. (For more on that cleanup, see the UN Environment program’s update here.) The cleanup operation could take up to 30 years. Oil output is currently around 1.8 million barrels per day, but Buhari recently put forward a large sum of money with the plan of returning oil production to 2.2 million barrels per day.

Abby Pioch is the primary blogger for Remembering Biafra. She is a senior in the Elliott School studying International Affairs concentrating in international development with a second major in French Language, Literature and Culture and a minor in Political Science. She is a member of Delta Phi Epsilon Professional Foreign Service Sorority and currently tutors ESL students at the Washington English Center.