Nigeria militants call off truce in oil-rich Niger Delta
'All companies related to the oil industry in the Niger Delta should prepare for an all-out onslaught,' said rebel spokesman Jomo Gbomo in a statement Saturday announcing an end to a three-month-old cease-fire.
The tentative peace in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region appears to have finally ended this weekend, sparking fears of a return to the violence that has cut output of the No. 3 crude oil supplier to the United States by more than 25 percent in recent years.Skip to next paragraph
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"All companies related to the oil industry in the Niger Delta should prepare for an all-out onslaught," said Jomo Gbomo, a spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, in a statement announcing an end to the cease-fire MEND had declared in October. "Nothing will be spared," he added, saying that the companies themselves would "bear the guilt" if their staffs were harmed.
Days earlier, a coalition of Niger Delta rebel groups rejected government offers of amnesty and reintegration into society, with MEND – the largest and most powerful group – calling the amnesty program a “sham.”
The lack of attacks in the Niger Delta had brought back some measure of stability to the region, and has allowed oil companies to restart production of oil on its platforms. But now ailing Nigerian President Umaru Yar Adua’s peace initiative is on the brink of collapse.
Roots of the fighting
The Niger Delta dispute has its roots in a government decision from the 1970s to nationalize all oil supplies, and a persistent belief among people of the Niger Delta that their region has become neglected as politicians from other parts of the country have become rich.
The conflict – like the war in Iraq and piracy off the coast of Somalia – has the potential to rock oil markets. Nigeria has just 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, but it has become a major supplier of crude oil for the United States, and disruptions to Nigerian oil supplies can have an impact on the price of gasoline at the pump.
“We want to own our land, we want control of the land and the resources, so we can determine who comes to our land, but instead we have communities that have been forcibly relocated from their land so that oil companies can start operations,” says Mr. Okah, in an exclusive interview with the Monitor. “It challenges all your senses, so you either submit to it or you do something about it.”
Following decades of nonviolent protests, MEND launched itself in January 2006, sending an e-mail to oil producers that proclaimed: “It must be clear that the Nigerian government cannot protect your workers or assets…. Our aim is to totally destroy the capacity of the Nigerian government to export oil.”