Crude from a recent spill slicks the creeks beside the settlements of the Edagberi clan in the Niger Delta. Villagers say their livelihood - long based on fishing - has been eroded by oil extraction. (Photo: Tom Burgis)
The main militant umbrella group in the Niger Delta has declared an indefinite ceasefire. Amid proposals of shifting a share of oil profits to the regiona and pledges to retain surrendered combatants, the rebels who have suppressed Nigerian oil production for years are waiting for the government to make good on its promise, writes Tom Burgis from the Niger Delta
On October 7, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, an umbrella organisation of the militant groups that have waged an insurgency against Nigeria’s oil industry for most of this decade, issued a statement denouncing a government amnesty that had convinced several top commanders and thousands of footsoldiers to surrender their arms.
“We will fight for our land with the last drop of our blood regardless of how many people the government of Nigeria and the oil companies are successful in bribing,” said the group, giving voice to a hardline faction that demanded full talks on how oil revenues are divided, above and beyond the amnesty.
Ten days ago came another statement declaring a resumption of hostilities against “the Nigerian oil industry, the Nigerian armed forces and its collaborators” following the end of Mend’s ceasefire.
Then, on Sunday, there was a dramatic change of tone. Declaring an “indefinite ceasefire” to allow for talks with the government, Mend, always fond of a biblical citation, wrote: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven … a time to tear and a time to mend.” (Ecclesiastes).
The announcement is a fillip to a government that is losing billions of dollars of revenue after years of attacks that have reduced the output of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest energy sector by as much as 40 per cent.