Tensions are mounting in Nigeria amid growing social disaffection and a violent crackdown on month-long street demonstrations, with militants in the oil creeks also laying threats of destructive action against oil and gas infrastructure.
The street demonstrations are in protest over hardships imposed by Covid 19-related restrictions on economic activity and police brutality.
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The turmoil has now spread to the Niger Delta, sparking renewed protest against living conditions in the oil-producing states and host communities, prompting previously quiescent militant groups to add their voices to the general protest.
A coalition of nine militant groups in the Niger Delta this week declared support for an end to constraints and the curfew imposed on Wednesday in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, warning they would attack oil installations if social demands are not met.
One of these groups, the self-styled Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA), threatened to “disavow the ceasefire accord” agreed with the government and directly take on military forces in the oilpatch.
Operation Crocodile Smile threat
In a communique, RNDA militia leader Johnmark Ezonebi, threatened to engage troops attached to the Operation Crocodile Smile task force that is proposed to beef up protection of oil and gas infrastructure, and resume attacks on oil facilities if the state fails to tackle poverty and the problem of “armed oppression” by the security services.
Ezonebi also demanded that “inequality of living standards between the citizens and political elites” be redressed by the government.
"RNDA leadership has directed its striking force unit commanders in all the nine militant groups to be on standby and maintain visibility on identified oil installations. We may resume heavy destruction of major crude oil pipelines and platforms, including gas distribution pipelines along the Escravos-Warri-Kaduna route," he said.
Ezonebi said the RNDA would attack the Escravos-Lagos pipeline and Chevron’s valve platform on the Abiteye field in Warri South “as it serves as a connecting point linking to all other Chevron platforms in the Niger Delta".
Also expressly targeted is Shell’s 48-inch diameter Forcardos export pipeline running from Clough Creek through to River Ramos Creek and on to the Forcardos terminal in Delta State.
"The gas pipeline that fuels electricity supplies to Lagos and Abuja will be cut off along with other gas and oil pipelines belonging to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) near Warri and in the hinterland,” according to the RNDA.
According to the communique, a “well-coordinated attack” has been planned to destroy pipelines feeding the Escravos Tank Farm at Ciera Creek in Warri Southwest and oil wells feeding the Dibi field hub, also in Delta State.
“Nigeria’s crude oil production chain will be cut to zero level as will the Bonny-Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) on Bonny Island, according to the statement released to media.
The RNDA demanded immediate disbursement of the Gas Flare Penalty Fund to host communities and the restoration of lucrative pipeline surveillance contracts to host and transit communities, insisting that oil producing communities should directly receive 5% of oil revenues without funds being channelled through state coffers.