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Niger Delta militants kill five people and oil companies evacuate

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Nigerian trade unions called for oil companies to evacuate workers on Tuesday, following two attacks in the Niger Delta which left five people dead. Armed men killed two police officers and three soldiers in separate attacks in a region that has seen a resurgence of militancy.

After coming under fire from militants, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron have evacuated some of their workforce in high-risk areas. Last week, a group known as Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) attacked a Chevron oil facility in the Delta and succeeding in blowing up the platform. The NDA went on to claim responsibility for bombing an underwater Royal Dutch Shell pipeline in February. Consequently, Nigeria’s crude output has fallen to its lowest point in 22 years.In a country whose economy and foreign currency reserves are largely dependant on oil and gas, the destruction of its pipelines by such armed groups could be absolutely catastrophic,” strategic consultant Leke Adebayo told The World Weekly. “Bad enough in boom times but in the middle of a crippling recession, the results would be devastating. This provides yet another reason as to why Nigeria needs to diversify its economy as soon as is reasonably practicable.”

Much of Nigeria’s oil wealth comes from the Niger Delta. However, the southern region is still underdeveloped and pollution from oil spills is widespread. Royal Dutch Shell and ENI admitted to 550 oil spills in 2014 alone.

The Niger Delta was a site of armed struggle from 2004 to 2009, with groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) staging attacks against the federal government and multinational oil companies.

To end the conflict, the Nigerian government launched an amnesty programme for militants, which offered them income, work and education. However, the programme is hard to sustain indefinitely, and President Buhari does want to wind down the amnesty.

The NDA is believed to be composed of former MEND rebels. Many such groups demand reparations for environmental damage and local control over production. Some want self-determination for their ethnic group.

As the Financial Times reports, Nigerian politicians fear cuts to the amnesty programme may spur on the militants and, in turn, threaten the energy industry. [Paywall]

The Nigerian authorities ought to consider talks between the militants and stakeholders to prevent further violence, Omotola Omolayo suggests in Ventures Africa.

The upsurge in violence in the Niger Delta is a further challenge for the Buhari administration, which faces an economic crisis and the Boko Haram insurgency in the north, as reported by Reuters.

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