Quasi-News & Commentary
The United States Consulate released a Warden Message this morning (December 8, 2006). The main text of the messageread:
“The U.S. Government has received information that a militant Niger Delta group has reportedly recruited and trained militants for renewed attacks on oil installations and expatriate oil workers in the Niger Delta region. The time, place, and specific targets of the attacks are not known.
The Consulate continues to advise Americans should review their security procedures, remain vigilant to their surroundings, and report specific incidences of targeted violence to the U.S. Consulate in Lagos at 01-261-0050. You may also email the Lagos Consular Section at email@example.com.”
This message coincided one released at almost the same time by a major militant organization in Nigeria, The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. In the statement, MEND took responsibility for yesterday’s attack on the Brass River Oil Terminal and the abduction of four expatriates from the facility.
“Today December 7, 2006 from 0600 hrs to 0800 hrs, fighters of the movement from the emancipation of the Niger delta, attacked and destroyed the AGIP (A subordinate company of Italian ENI) installation in brass (sic) in the Niger delta. This attack was in pursuance of our pledge to halt crude oil exportation from Nigeria.”
The statement went on to remind the government and oil companies that after its first major attack of 2006 MEND issued a list of demands to be met by the Nigerian government in order that its armed campaign against the Nigerian oil industry be suspended.
These demands include:
- “the release of Alamieseigha (Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa State) and Asari ( Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, the leader of an armed group demanding more control of oil resources)”
- “payment of compensation by Shell to communities affected by its spillages, and”
- “resource control for the Niger delta.”
Today’s statement accuses the government and oil companies of refusing to meet its demands, “instead preferring to bribe traitors to the cause and stage meetings with frauds and pretenders who parade themselves as militants or their representatives.”
MEND came on the scene in January like gangbusters, abducting expatriates and attacking oil facilities. Many Nigerian soldiers, police and other security personnel have been killed during MEND raids. The success of this new but potent militant organization has spawned copycat groups with their ownset of acronyms. (See my Year of the Militants four part series).
the founding philosophy of MEND is that of an active terrorist group that uses violent means to support the rights of the ethnic Ijaw people in the Niger Delta. In contrast to the healthy profit margins enjoyed by foreign oil companies operating in Nigeria, most Nigerians in the Delta region live in poverty, and many feel that they are being neglected by the government.
These conditions have led to the proliferation of local terrorist groups, which at last count, numbered around 120. Of these organizations, MEND is one of the largest, and it works closely with other militant groups, coordinating and conducting joint operations. Notably, MEND has joined forces with the Niger Delta Peopleâ€™s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), the Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta, and the Martyrs Brigade to form the strongest anti-foreign oil terrorist alliance in the region.
MENDâ€™s ultimate goal is to expel foreign oil companies and Nigerians not indigenous to the Delta region from Ijaw land. In the short run, the group wishes to increase local control over money made from the exploitation of the regionâ€™s abundant natural resources.
The organization recently pressured the government to demand the payment of $1.5 billion from Shell Oil for damage done to the local environment. MEND also wants the central government to provide basic services such as running water to the region and increase government investment in the areaâ€™s infrastructure.
Finally, MEND wishes to secure the release of imprisoned Ijaw advocates Alhaji Dokubo-Asari, a leader of NDPVF, and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa State.
MENDâ€™s tactics have evolved from crude kidnapping-for-ransom operations into more sophisticated and effective methods that combine actions such as hostage-taking and bombings with the effective use of local and increasingly international media propaganda campaigns. MEND bombings usually target key points in oil pipelines and facilities in the Delta to maximize disruption and cost to foreign oil companies. A recent car bomb attack on an urban military barracks in Port Harcourt, the regional capital, is an example of the growing diversity of MENDâ€™s methods and targets and reflects growing frustration with what the Ijaw perceive to be government indifference to their plight.
The MEND statement also demanded payment of reparations for “50 years of robbery and enslavement by the oil companies and the Nigerian government. It concluded “The following days will witness more attacks against oil industry targets. We will not entertain talk concerning the release of the captured hostages. The(y) will be exchanged for at least part of our demands. The oil industry should realize from this the Nigerian government is useless as far as providing security in the delta is concerned. They would definitely fare better paying their taxes to us.”
MEND told the BBC this morning that it will stage more attacks ahead of an Opec summit, to be held in Nigeria next week. The BBC also charges, “When not working as militants, the gunmen are often involved in kidnapping for ransom, work for local politicians or involved in the lucrative industry of stealing and smuggling vast amounts of crude oil.”
According to Reuters, a second, more ominous statement was emailed to media. “We say to all oil companies in the delta, your nightmare has not even begun,” MEND wrote, “With the persistent obstinacy of the oil companies and the Nigerian government, we have resolved to be more ruthless. Nigerian staff attached to the Agip terminal are warned never to return to that facility or face executions.”
The statement went on,“We have resolved to henceforth target oil company vehicles with roadside bombs, offices and wherever we may find oil workers within the delta. We will show little mercy to all oil workers, including Nigerians who fail to heed our persistent warnings to halt all activity on our land.”
This is most out of character for MEND. In the past, the organizations made less convincing threats and often tempered them with ifs: “if the army tries to free them, if anyone tries to stop us, etc.” This time they seemed more threatening. Of course, some expatriates think MEND embellishes thier exploits. One said, “MEND’s claim to have destroyed the whole Brass installation and razed the MOPOL building while the MOPOLS ran away without firing a shot seems to be at odds with all other reports coming out of the area that they were repelled from the installation and took the hostages from the “soft option” residential area.”
Many expatriates in the Port Harcourt area are starting to talk about pulling up stakes again. The talk of roadside bombs brings thoughts of Iraq and IEDs. One said, “Roadside bombs going-off in PH (Port Harcourt) will be the first indication of a civil war. Time to start packing.”
Another, more level headed contributor to the Oyibosonline.com forum made this long post:
“Roadside bombs don’t generate any revenue – hostages do. The guy who wrote the MEND article is obviously enthusiastic about what he is doing, but I am not sure that he is on the same page as his militant brothers.
As long as MEND activities centre on raising money, they are proving that they are just as bad as the “elected criminals” (their words not mine) who have done the deals with the oil companies.
Do they really think that the chiefs and politicians are going to give up their seats on the gravy train?
A roadside bomb would be an eloquent expression of how serious MEND are about their cause – unless of course, it’s used to take out the MOPOLs and leave the expats to be collected…..
MEND have previously made specific threats against specific targets that assured how serious they were. To my knowledge, not one of them has come true. Being a hostage is no laughing matter – but we ARE worth more alive than dead.”
Another expatriate responded with this:
“Good point about the hostages and the money – but the hostages were secondary to this attack. Primarily, they attacked Brass export terminal.
Communications were taken out, boats destroyed, etc etc. This is reminiscent of the earlier MEND attacks where they took out pipelines – and bear in mind they knew where to target. I wouldn’t be surpsied to see more bombings soon.
MEND’s leadership are serious, and they do have a different agenda than some of these copycat groups that really are just in it for the money. Of course, they all draw on the same pool of fighters, but MEND’s leadership are more sophisticated in terms of tatics, access to weapons, and politics. They are not just after a few million niara here or there – you can make much more money from bunkering than you can from hostage taking.”
Whatever the next few weeks bring to the Niger Delta and the people who live and work there, you can bet a lot of expatriates will be going to bed with more than visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Even the atheists may be praying for peace on earth, goodwill to men.