Here Are 5 Things You Should Know About the Niger Delta Avengers

Learn more about the Niger Delta Avengers, the militia credited for destroying Nigeria's oil economy.

The Buhari administration announced that the Nigerian government will begin negotiations with the Niger Delta Avengers rebel group—who’s been ravaging the country’s oil pipelines since February.

“The President has appointed a team to begin the process of a very intensive dialogue with those caught in the middle of this,” Ibe Kachikwu, Nigeria’s minister of state for petroleum, said to Reuters. “I am sure that in the ensuing one week the intensity of that dialogue will wrap up.”

The Niger Delta Avengers first made waves in early February when the group claimed responsibility for the destruction of a Shell underwater pipe.

Pledging to “cripple Nigeria’s economy,” the group has been vandalizing and destroying pipelines throughout the country's southern region.

According Kachikwu, the Niger Delta Avenger’s attacks have cost Nigeria “about 600,000 barrels” of oil daily, valued at around $30 million.

Before the attacks, Nigeria was Africa’s largest producer of oil. The oil industry accounts for 70 percent of the government’s annual revenue. The crippling effects of the insurgency finds Buhari’s administration scrambling to find a solution.

On their Twitter page, the group announced that they will not be taking part in any negotiations with the government.

But who exactly are the Niger Delta Avengers? Here are five facts to know about the insurgency group and the ensuing conflict in the Delta region:

  1. February’s attack marked the end of seven years of relative peace in the region, which previously saw the death of thousands of citizens and military personnel.
  2. Outlets have speculated that the recent insurgency is in direct response to President Buhari’s crack-down on previous amnesty payments made to ex-militant leaders in the region. The Avengers have denied all ties to previous militant groups.
  3. According to the Niger Delta Avenger’s website and Twitter account, followed by over twenty-five thousand people, the group aims to liberate the marginalized citizenry of the Bayelsa state region.“Since the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 to date, our resources have been used to sustain the political administrative live wire of Nigeria to the exclusion of the Niger Delta,” the group wrote in a statement.
  4. The Avengers seek a larger share of the land oil wealth to be distributed to the region’s citizens as well as immediate environmental remediation to the area, which has rampantly been polluted by gas and oil dumping.“We want our resources back to restore the essence of human life in our region for generations to come, because Nigeria has failed to do that.”
  5. Earlier this week, President Buhari pledged a $1 billion cleanup of the Niger Delta in partnership with the United Nations. It will be interesting to track the ways the Avengers respond to the initiative.
Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.

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