Friday’s suspension of ceasefire with the Federal Government, by the Niger Delta Avengers, and the possible resumption of attacks on oil installations has brought about a degree tension in the Niger Delta.
The NDA, at weekend, announced a suspension of its ceasefire via a statement by its spokesperson, Murdoch Agbinibo.
The group, which said it would renew hostilities, vowed that the fresh attacks would be worse than those of 2016, stressing, “We can assure you that every oil installation in our region will feel the warmth of the wrath of the Niger Delta Avengers.”
Before the cessation of hostilities last year, its activities made the country’s oil production to reach its lowest level in nearly 30 years.
Stakeholders in the region, who are worried about the adverse implications of the ceasefire on the 2018 budget, have, however, warned the Federal Government against dismissing the NDA’s threat with a wave of hand.
In the last 10 days, tension has spiked in the area after security operatives aborted the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) General Assembly meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Sources in PANDEF, who pleaded anonymity distanced the group from the fresh threat by NDA, and blamed the desire of a minister from the region to hijack the peace process brokered by PANDEF, for heightened tension, which has now placed the peace initiative on life support.
NDA, while calling off the ceasefire on Friday, lampooned PANDEF for not allowing it to ruin the country’s economy, through total stoppage of crude oil production.
The Guardian gathered that NDA became totally disillusioned that one year after PANDEF met with President Muhammadu Buhari, and presented its 16-point agenda, none of the demands have been implemented by the Federal Government.
A source close to the militant group said NDA reached the decision to resume hostilities because some members of the Buhari’s cabinet from the region, who perceived that some PANDEF leaders were sympathetic to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) (in a bid to whittle down the influence of PANDEF), decided to sponsor the Pan-Niger Delta Congress, (PNDPC), led by former national chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities of Nigeria, (TROMPCON) and king of Seimbiri Kingdom, Charles Ayemi-Botu.
“Absolutely, it was stupid to stop the PANDEF meeting because that was only going to cause trouble. I understand, the minister’s selfish motive, but you don’t stop a meeting of 200 people. It was for some selfish motives that some people in government, who want to control the peace process decided to stop the PANDEF meeting. The Rivers State government didn’t have a role in it; it was from Abuja that the message came down to the DSS that the meeting should be stopped. PANDEF has a lot of problems, but PNDPC has no base and no spread, they just got a political sponsor,” he said.
The sources maintained that it would be perilous for the Federal Government to ignore NDA’s threat because of its implication for the national economy.
A security source in one of the multinational oil companies told The Guardian that NDA’s threat was being taken seriously by oil majors, who suffered severe losses when the militants in 2016 shutdown oil production to an unprecedented low of level of 800,000bopd.
It would be recalled that PANDEF, led by Chief Edwin Clark, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, former Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) president, Ledum Mitee, and several others on November 1, 2016, met Buhari in Abuja, where they presented their 16-point agenda. This led to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, setting up an inter-ministerial committee to look into the agenda, and how it should be implemented. Nothing has been done, not even the promised opening of the Maritime University last month.