By Dirk Steffen
The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) are Nigeria’s “new” Niger Delta militancy phenomenon. They have issued challenges to the Nigerian government, international oil companies, and the military. Within a span of less than 3 months they are believed to be primarily responsible for reducing Nigeria’s oil production from a (theoretical) 2.2m barrels per day to around 1.4m barrels per day by the end of May 2016. They have mainly targeted Nigerian state and international oil companies’ pipeline infrastructure with explosives attacks. The spectre of their involvement in maritime piracy and kidnappings has been raised as well.
There is very little evidence-based information on the NDA. Even the Nigerian security services are not totally sure what they are up against, although the group has made stock demands for Niger Delta autonomy, greater participation in the oil wealth, and cessation of environmental destruction. Former militants, the government, and other stakeholders variously blame former militant leader Tompolo, the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), former President Goodluck Jonathan, and other ex-militants for being behind the group. The NDA themselves reveal little, except for their geographic origin: Warri South West local government area (LGA) in Delta state. So far they have run rings around the Nigerian military, avoiding direct confrontation and eluding arrests.
Although the area of operations west of Warri between the Benin and Forcados Rivers is a coastal strip only 30nm long and 30nm deep, it is a militarily challenging riverine and inshore environment of mangrove swamps and wetlands with no road infrastructure.
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