Niger Delta Avengers Threaten to Break Up Nigeria

The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) have again threatened to withdraw the oil-producing region from Nigeria.

The militant group, which has been blowing up oil pipelines since February, said that it hoped Nigeria would strike oil in the north of the country “so they can let the Niger Delta go,” accusing President Muhammadu Buhari of dividing the country.

“The Buhari-led government has failed Nigerians with their misdirected policies that have divided the country, as such [that] nobody wants to be part of that failed state, not even the Niger Delta,” said the NDA in a statement on Thursday.

The majority of Nigeria’s oil is concentrated in the Niger Delta, a region of southern swamplands. Militant groups including the NDA have periodically risen up and demanded a fairer share of the country’s oil wealth for impoverished communities in the Delta. The oil sector accounts for more than 90 percent of the value of Nigeria’s exports and 70 percent of government revenue.

Attacks by the NDA and other groups have slashed Nigeria’s oil production by several hundred thousand barrels per day (bpd) in 2016, and the Nigerian government has said it is negotiating a settlement with the militants. But the NDA have denied entering any negotiations and threatened secession from Nigeria.

“The October 1 declaration of independence is still sacrosanct. If the Nigerian government fails to retrace its steps by restructuring this country,” said the NDA. October 1 marks the anniversary of Nigeria’s independence from colonial Britain, which was achieved in 1960.

Elsewhere, ex-Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has again denied any links with militant groups in the Niger Delta. Nigeria’s Premium Times reported on Thursday that the Nigerian Presidency had ordered a probe into alleged links between Jonathan and his wife Patience with the groups, including the NDA. A similar allegation had been made by a little-known militant group calling itself the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers earlier in August.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, Jonathan’s camp denied the report and said such allegations were the work of people with grievances against the former president. “There is no doubt that there exist such people who may have scores to settle with the former president,” said the statement, reported by Nigeria’s Pulse news site.

Niger Delta oil spill A fisherman looks at spilled crude oil floating in the waters of the Niger Delta swamps of Bodo in Ogoniland, Nigeria, on June 24, 2010. The Niger Delta Avengers have threatened to separate the oil-producing region from the rest of Nigeria. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images