Nigerian security operatives have made a break through in the arrest of militants that have claimed responsibility for pipelines vandalization in the Niger Delta region of the country.
This followed several arrests made by the Nigerian troops over the weekend, a senior military source said on Monday.
“We made some arrests over the weekend. They were picked up around scenes of recent attacks in the Niger Delta,” said the source, from the joint task force involved in security in the region.
“It will be pre-emptive at this stage to conclude that the suspects are the militants that bombed the oil pipelines and installations until after investigation,” the source added.
Militants seeking a fairer share of revenue for locals in the oil-rich Niger Delta region have resumed attacks on oil facilities, creating a fresh security headache for President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Niger Delta Avengers, a newly formed militant group, has claimed responsibilities for the latest attacks, which followed threats to wreak havoc on the country’s economy by blowing up oil and gas pipelines.
On may 6, 2016, there was attack on Chevron platform, that occurred 24 hours after a major attack was carried out on another Chevron’s platform at Escravos.
In a statement signed by its spokesperson, Mudoch Agbinibo, the group claimed responsibility for blowing up crude line that link Warri and Kaduna refineries, respectively. It also claimed to have damaged the gas line that feeds the Lagos and Abuja electricity power supply.
“With this development, the Warri and Kaduna refineries will be shut down and all cities that depend on the gas line for power will all be in total darkness, like the creeks of the Niger Delta,” the group said.
The group added that on Thursday (May 7), its Strike Team 7 blew up Well D25 in Abiteye, a major gas facility owned by Chevron.
The team also blew up major pipelines in Alero, Dibi, Otunana and Makaraba flow stations, which feed the Chevron tank farm, putting it out of operation. Currently, Chevron’s operations in the Niger Delta have been completely disrupted.
The group announced that it carried out the bombings about 100 meters away from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline, where a military houseboat is stationed to protect the pipelines.
“We want the public to know that despite the heavy presence of military operatives, our activities can’t be stopped and it just a waste of funds and time to make the Nigerian military protect oil installations,” the group boasted.
Mudoch Agbinibo warned the people of the Niger Delta against undermining the group’s agenda.
“This is a clear warning to all Niger Delta politicians, traditional rulers, community leaders and the likes of Tompolo to mind their business and leave the liberation of the Niger Delta people to the Avengers… Neither you nor the federal government can stop us. If you don’t stay clear and let us carry out our activities, we will bring the fight to your individual doorsteps. Our major goal is to cripple the Nigerian economy,” he warned.
The spokesman also called on all Niger Deltans to attack oil installations in their communities and urged them to see the war as theirs.
However, Sunday, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond urged President Buhari to deal with the root causes of militancy in the oil rich region rather than using military confrontation to deal with the crisis.
He said military confrontation could end in “disaster”.
Crude sales from the Delta account for 70 percent of national income in Africa’s biggest economy but residents, some of whom sympathise with the militants, have long complained of poverty. “It’s obviously a major concern,” Hammond told reporters on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Abuja when asked about the Delta situation.
“The idea that your answer is by moving big chunks of the Nigerian army to the Delta simply doesn’t work,” he said, adding that the army did not have the capacity while fighting Boko Haram jihadists in the north.
“It won’t deal with the underlying issues.
“Buhari has got to show as a President from the North that he is not ignoring the Delta, that he is engaging with the challenges in the Delta,” Hammond said.
Buhari is a Muslim from the north who has not visited the Christian Delta since taking office a year ago, something highlighted by a militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers, which has claimed a string of attacks on pipelines.
The group has warned oil firms to leave the region within two weeks and says it is fighting for independence for the Delta.
It has said it wanted a greater share of oil revenues and an end to oil pollution.
The attacks have driven Nigerian oil output to near a 22-year low and, if the violence escalates into another insurgency, it could cripple output in a country facing a growing economic crisis.
Buhari, who has not commented about not visiting the Delta, has extended a multi-million dollar amnesty signed with militants in 2009 but upset them by ending generous pipeline protection contracts.
He also cut the amnesty budget by around 70 percent, which partly funds training for unemployed.