MEA Risk is warning of some potential new risk and escalation of violence in Nigeria, specifically in the southern and southeastern states and to a limited extent in the Federal capital Abuja. The ongoing incarceration and trial of Biafra leader Kinu, who is charged of treason, are magnifying the crisis that promises to turn into a full blow rebellion. Warnings from several militant groups that promise to increase economic sabotage and direct confrontation with security forces must be taken seriously and companies operating in Nigeria’s southern and southeastern regions, and also in Abuja are advised to take additional security measures.
While Nigeria continuous to struggle with Boko Haram, a massive reduction in oil revenues, a permanent fight against criminality, including oil theft and pipeline vandalism, a growing feud with the Shiite minority, it is also seeing the resumption of an old conflict with the pro-Biafra autonomy movement that could be the catalyst for more instability in the south and southeast of the country where a great deal of oil activity takes place.
Four weeks ago, two militant groups in the Niger Delta issued a worrisome warning to the Nigerian government over the fate of the Biafra leader Nnamdi Kinu. Mr. Kinu, who is the head of the IPOB organization (the Indigenous People of Biafra) and the director of the banned Radio Biafra has been jailed by the Nigeria military and was charged of committing acts of treason. The two organizations, the Concerned Militant Leaders (CML) and Niger Delta People’s Democratic Front (NDPDF) warned that a war will ensue if the federal government goes ahead with its plan to use masked witnesses to testify against Kinu. The military leaders of these two organization warned that failure to release Kinu will result in their “crippling of the economy.” By that, they clearly mean they will most likely target the oil facilities, including the pipelines that generate the bulk of Nigeria’s wealth.
This week, a third group added new warnings to the Nigerian military. In an interview with a local newspaper, Sunny Okereafor, a top leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign States of Biafra (MASSOB) warned the Federal authorities “to be prepared for another civil war.” MASSOB also threatened to bring Nigeria to the International Court of Justice, “over incessant killings of pro Biafra protesters,” adding that “the incessant killings of pro Biafra protesters by security agents had become unbearable.”
The situation is indeed concerning because the deadline to release Kinu was set by one of the militant groups as February 22, 2016, while the second group identified targets to be in the federal capital of Abuja, but also in Abia and Anambra States.
Although the warnings insisted at first that no civilians will be hurt, another statement says “if this nonsense is allowed to go on, lives of innocent people, both Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and foreigners will go down.” The militant leaders also called upon the United Nations to intervene to protect the Biafrans, but it is unlikely that the UN would get involved.
Another militant group called the Niger Delta Avengers also announced plans to up its attacks on oil infrastructure. The Avengers are believed to be behind the attack on the Forcados Terminal Pipeline in Delta State. The group has been vocal as to its targets are, including Shell Petroleum Development Company. The group has been lamenting lack of social and economic progress for the local population and has vowed to sabotage the country’s oil infrastructure. The group, just like the Biafrans has been calling for greater regional autonomy.
Anyone operating in the southern/SE regions must take additional protective measures to guarantee greater security. This note also extends to a certain degree to the Federal capital Abuja.