Nigerian militants end cease-fire, say oil attacks to restart

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo and Paul Wallace on 11/3/2017

ABUJA and LAGOS (Bloomberg) -- A militant group in Nigeria’s southern Niger River delta, whose attacks on oil installations in 2016 cut output to the lowest in three decades, said it ended a self-imposed cease-fire and will resume its violent campaign.

“Our operatives are intact and focused, ready to implement instructions,” the Niger Delta Avengers said in a statement on its website on Friday by a spokesman identified as Mudoch Agbinibo. “We can assure you that every oil installation in our region will feel warmth of the wrath.”

The group threatened to disrupt Total SA’s Egina offshore oil field, which is set to start production in the first quarter of 2018. A spokesman for Total did not immediately respond to calls and an email requesting comment.

Nigeria suffered its worst economic downturn in a quarter century after oil prices and output fell in 2016 amid militant attacks estimated by the government to have caused the loss of $7 billion in revenue. 

“Unlike many other militant groups that issue threats online, the Avengers’ announcement needs to be taken very seriously,” Malte Liewerscheidt, senior Africa analyst at Bath, U.K.-based Verisk Maplecroft, said by email. “The Avengers’ area of operations in 2016 was confined to the areas west of Warri between the Benin and Forcados Rivers. It is highly likely that any potential future assaults will take place within the same area.”

The Avengers’ attacks subsided after a truce with the group in August last year to allow for peaceful negotiations. The militants have accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s government of being slow to meet their expectations of more local control over the region’s oil resources. The authenticity of the website, which has proved reliable before, couldn’t be verified.

A spokesman for the Oil Ministry didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

“The Avengers have always shown a willingness and ability to back up their threats with action,” Cheta Nwanze, an analyst at Lagos-based advisory SBM Intelligence, said by phone. “While it is unlikely that they have the capacity to attack all oil installations in the region, they can hit where it will have the most impact.”


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