In Niger Delta New armed group says it blew up oil pipeline

A security source confirmed an attack using dynamite on the Uzere-Eriemu line in the Isoko South area of Delta State.

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Naval security operatives patrol the creeks of Niger Delta in Buguma. play

Naval security operatives patrol the creeks of Niger Delta in Buguma.

(AFP/File Pius Utomi Ekpei)
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A newly emerged armed group has said it had made good on threats to Nigeria's vital oil industry by blowing up a major pipeline and warned that more attacks were to come.

The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM) said in a statement late Wednesday they had shown they were "men of (their) word" by destroying part of the Urhobo pipeline in oil-rich Delta State on Tuesday.

The creation of the group was announced scarcely two days earlier by its spokesman, self-proclaimed "general" Aldo Agbalaja, who warned that the NDGJM would strike at oil installations within 48 hours.

A security source confirmed an attack using dynamite on the Uzere-Eriemu line in the Isoko South area of Delta State.

Communities near the pipeline, which is owned by the state-run Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), are suffering from pollution caused by leaking oil, the source added.

"We started noticing crude oil on our land only to be told that it is as a result of crude oil spill from a trunk line conveying crude from Isoko to the Eriemu manifold," said Victor Emuherie, leader of a youth movement in the affected village of Agbarha-Otor.

The populous Niger Delta region on the Gulf of Guinea has for decades seen attacks by local militants on oil installations run by the NPDC and by foreign oil giants, causing successive governments to deploy troops.

The NDGJM warned that Tuesday's attack was only a preview of its activities to come and urged multinational companies "to evacuate their personnel".

- 'Quite murky' talks -

The government last week resumed payment of allowances to former fighters under an amnesty scheme primarily involving ex-rebels of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

MEND is a historic armed movement demanding reparations and a fair share of oil revenue for residents of the Niger Delta, which has seen spin-offs by radicals who want independence for the region and refuse to recognise Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, as Nigeria's president. 

Attacks by another more active group, the Niger Delta Avengers, have led to a sharp fall in oil production since the start of the year in a country already hit by tumbling prices for crude, which accounts for 70 percent of state revenue.

Oil analyst Rhidoy Rashid said the renewed amnesty payments to MEND are unlikely to stop attacks on oil infrastructure.

"These payments don't actually include the Niger Delta Avengers," said Rashid, who works at the London-based consultancy Energy Aspects, "so they won't decrease the frequency of attacks". 

Rashid described rumoured talks between the Niger Delta Avengers and the Nigerian government as "quite murky".

"Perhaps there are discussions going on behind the scenes, but really we think it's going to be difficult because the government is not prepared to give into the new militants."

- Splinter group? -

A war of words stepped up early this month when a purported splinter group of the Niger Delta Avengers said that former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan was sponsoring the militants. 

Cynthia White, spokesperson for the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, said in a statement that the breakaway group would "co-operate with the government by exposing the identities of our comrades who remain stubborn in their insistence to continue attacks".

In response the Niger Delta Avengers that their "household is intact" and dismissed White and her group as "government agents". 

Lagos-based security analyst Don Okereke said that the splinter group's origin and claims seem suspicious. 

"The so-called Reformed Niger Delta Avengers is a farce," Okereke said. "It's an attempt aimed at sowing discord in the ranks of the Niger Delta Avengers."

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