Nigeria Talks to Militants as Avengers Strike Gas Pipeline

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The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta started talks with Nigeria’s government, even as another militant group claimed to have blown up a pipeline in the oil-rich region.

The negotiations “will seek to find solutions to the short, medium and long-term future of the Niger Delta region,” MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said Sunday in an emailed statement. While Nigeria’s presidency said on July 21 it’s talking to militants, that doesn’t appear to include the Niger Delta Avengers, the rebels claiming responsibility for the attacks on oil infrastructure this year.

The Avengers, who in February shattered a seven-year peace with a campaign of sabotage that’s cut crude output and starved the government of revenue, late Sunday said they blew up a gas pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. The statement on the group’s website couldn’t be verified. The Avengers say they want a greater share of the wealth that oil companies extract from their native lands to be spent on local schools, hospitals and other essential services.

“The Avengers have proved difficult to engage,” Pabina Yinkere, head of research at Vetiva Capital Management Ltd., said by phone from Lagos. “The government has made several attempts to dialogue with the Avengers but we are yet to hear of any successful discussions. The move to dialogue with MEND could be a strategy to bring in the Avengers and other fringe groups.”

The Avengers said it hit a gas pipeline owned by the state-oil company in the Nsit-Ibom area. That follows NNPC’s appeal on July 21 to the Nigerian military to improve security in the delta region.


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