A new rebel group on Monday vowed to attack strategic targets across Nigeria, despite calls for a united front but no “life-threatening actions” from other militants who have claimed recent strikes on oil facilities.
The group, calling itself the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force (JNDLF), said it would hit “all those infrastructures that were built with our oil and gas monies in this country”.
The list of targets included the presidential villa, government ministries, parliament, the state-run oil firm and the central bank in Abuja, plus the offices of oil majors and the military.
“We will make (the) federal government and oil companies suffer as they have made the people of the Niger Delta region suffer over the years from environmental degradation and environmental pollution,” the JNDLF’s “Joint Revolutionary Council” said.
Most of the recent attacks on oil facilities in the oil-rich south have been claimed by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), who want a fairer share of revenue from the sector for local people.
– ‘War on oil installations’ –
The NDA’s sabotage of pipelines and attacks on installations have hit crude production, forcing output down to about 1.4 million barrels day, instead of a budgeted-for 2.2 million bpd.
But last week it denied involvement in an attack on a boat belonging to the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in which four soldiers and two personnel were killed.
On Saturday, the group appeared to confirm the emergence of other militants with similar agendas in a statement on its website, “calling on all groups in the region to be strong and resolute”.
The new JNDLF, which said it would carry out its threat with “missiles”, has vowed to fight troops sent to the delta to bolster the protection of key infrastructure.
But the NDA countered: “We must desist from any life-threatening actions that will derail our genuine struggle for our people.
“All groups are hereby discouraged from indulging in harassing oil workers and soldiers… those groups with anti-aircraft missiles should dry their gunpowder.”
It added: “The war is on oil installations.”
– ‘Like a McDonald’s franchise’ –
The emergence of militant outfits recalls the situation in the 2000s, when groups with broadly similar aims came together under the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) banner.
The rebels were bought off in a government-brokered amnesty deal in 2009.
The planned end of the amnesty is said to be a contributory factor to the re-emergence of militancy, as well as the arrest on corruption charges of a prominent former rebel leader.
The NDA, however, has added self-determination for the region to its aims and allied itself with ethnic Igbo campaigners in the southeast wanting an independent Biafran homeland.
Judith Asuni, head of the Academic Associates PeaceWorks conflict management group in Warri, Delta state, said they were trying to get government and local leaders together to resolve the issues.
But whereas the militant groups of the past were primarily composed of the Ijaw ethnic group, today “there seem to be branches opening up of other ethnic groups that were not included in the amnesty programme of 2009”, she told AFP.
“It’s like buying your own McDonald’s franchise. You can open your own branch of Niger Delta Avengers,” she added