Nigerian violence linked to amnesty cuts

A surge in violence aggravating an oil-production slump in Nigeria reflects the government’s pullback from an amnesty program for militants, says an analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, Bath, London.

Senior Africa Analyst Malte Liewerscheidt says the new government of President Muhammadu Buhari plans to cut stipends and allowances for former militants this year by more than two thirds.

“The predictable result is that this has driven militants back to the creeks” in the oil-producing Niger Delta, Liewerscheidt says.

The former government implemented the amnesty program in 2009 in response to several years of militancy that damaged pipelines and production equipment.

Oil flow down

In February, sabotage of a marine pipeline cut flow through the important Forcados Crude Oil Terminal by as much as 250,000 b/d. A new group called Niger Delta Avengers claimed responsibility (OGJ Online, Apr. 22, 2016).

The International Energy Agency this month estimated Nigerian oil production fell to 1.62 million b/d in April from 1.68 million b/d in March and 1.76 million b/d in February. IEA estimates the country’s production capacity at 1.9 million b/d.

Although the Forcados terminal is expected to resume operations in June, problems continue.

This month, an explosion forced Chevron Corp. to close a near-shore valve platform that had been handling 35,000 b/d of crude. The same group claimed responsibility.

And gunmen killed two guards at a security post in the Niger Delta and, in a separate attack, three soldiers in Bayelsa state.

Also this month, Shell Petroleum Development Co. declared force majeure on exports of Bonny Light crude after the Nembe Creek Trunkline developed a leak thought to be unrelated to sabotage. According to press reports, the closure affected 75,000-78,000 b/d of crude.

The militants

Liewerscheidt says Niger Delta Avengers militants probably are disgruntled members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a large group active before the amnesty deal.

The new group echoes MEND’s calls for local control of oil revenue and raises a range of new demands. It probably comprises former rank-and-file MEND members, the analyst says, adding, “Most of the MEND leadership is arguably more interested in negotiating a deal to preserve the assets they acquired through pipeline security contracts handed out under the former government.”

According to the analyst, attacks on crucial pipelines and oil installations attests to the group’s ability to “inflict havoc” and to “its strategic intent to force oil companies into concessions.”

Liewerscheidt also notes that the new group has made overtures to activists seeking secession of the part of Nigeria formerly known as Biafra.

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