Lagos, Nigeria | – A militant group in the Niger Delta has issued a renewed threat to international oil companies as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly plans a visit to the troubled region.
The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which has carried out a series of crippling attacks on oil pipelines and facilities in the region, issued a statement on Monday warning companies based in the region—including Anglo –Dutch giants Shell and U.S supermajor Chevron—that “it’s going to be bloody this time around.” “Your facilities and personnel will bear the brunt of our fury, which shall fall upon you like a whirling wind,” said the statement, attributed to NDA spokesman Mudoch Agbinibo.
Buhari vowed on Sunday that he was ready to engage with leaders in the region, which also saw a sustained period of militancy in the mid-2000s led by armed groups protesting what they saw as the unfair distribution of Nigeria’s oil wealth. The Nigerian president said that the recent attacks would not distract his government and that security forces would “apprehend the perpetrators and their sponsors and bring them to justice.”
Buhari is planning to visit Ogoniland, a region in the Niger Delta damaged by years of oil spills, on Thursday to launch a clean-up program, an unnamed Nigerian official told Reuters. A spokesman for the president confirmed that the visit is going ahead without providing further details. It will be the first time Buhari has been to the Niger Delta since his inauguration in May 2015.
The NDA came to Nigeria’s attention in February after it claimed an attack on an underwater pipeline at Shell’s Forcados terminal in the Niger Delta—which produces 250,000 barrels per day (bpd)—temporarily taking the facility offline. The group has stated its aim is to cripple the Nigerian economy and appears to have links to the pro-Biafra movement, which wants to establish an independent state of Biafra in southeast Nigeria.
Biafra existed as a republic between 1967 and 1970, when it was reintegrated into Nigeria following a bloody civil war. The NDA has frequently called for the release of pro-Biafra activist Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, who has been detained by Nigerian security forces since October 2015 on charges of treasonable felony, which he denies.
Mainly as a result of the upsurge in attacks, Nigeria’s oil production has decreased by 800,000 bpd to around 1.4 million bpd, dropping the West African country behind Angola as the continent’s largest oil producer.