Nigeria has been hit by growing unrest in the country’s oil-producing
south by a new militant group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers.
|Niger Delta Avengers|
Here is what is known about them:
What’s the story so far?
The Avengers describe themselves as young, well-educated “worthy
outlaws” and have since early 2016 been attacking Nigeria’s oil and gas
infrastructure, helping drag production to 20-year lows.
They demand an independent state and want international oil companies out of the region.
Who are they?
“Even the Nigerian security services are not 100 percent sure what they
are up against,” Dirk Steffen, from the Denmark-based Risk Intelligence
firm, told AFP. Still, given their ability to execute attacks on
critical oil and gas infrastructure, it’s likely some members were part
of former militant organisations, he added. But the group’s level of
organisation is under debate.
“The Avengers may not be a defined group of people, except for a core of maybe 100-150 people or so,” said Steffen.
In 2009, Nigeria reached a ceasefire with militant groups which
previously disrupted oil production and introduced an amnesty programme.
That gave former rebels a monthly stipend and jobs training in the oil industry as welders, divers and technicians.
But after the economy took a nosedive following the crash in global oil
prices, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has struggled to pay for
the amnesty programme.
He has even hinted at winding it down, making some 30,000 ex-militants
on the payroll angry. He has also ended lucrative security contracts
with former militants to protect pipelines.