In Stratfor's 2017 Fourth-Quarter Forecast we wrote that the Nigerian federal government's unwillingness or inability to devote significant resources to the oil-producing Niger Delta region could make the cease-fire and calm there increasingly tenuous. The Niger Delta Avengers are the one group to have previously demonstrated capabilities to attack oil and natural gas infrastructure in the region, and the group has released a statement promising action.
The Niger Delta Avengers are back. After nearly five months of silence, the militant group has released a bellicose statement promising new attacks. It previously gained acclaim by conducting a few high-profile attacks on Nigeria's oil and natural gas infrastructure, disrupting the production of hundreds of thousands of barrels per day and stoking the ire of the Nigerian federal government during the 2016 campaign. On Nov. 3, the Niger Delta Avengers declared they would resume their attacks on the region's energy infrastructure, bringing an end to its moratorium on such attacks.
The statement's timing is notable. The Niger Delta Avengers criticized the efforts of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, an umbrella organization of civil society groups that has been negotiating with the Nigerian federal government. Though the forum and the federal government have frequently met and made some minor concessions, no significant agreements have been struck, adding to the region's frustrations. In addition, the statement came just a few days after a Nigerian military operation, codenamed Crocodile Smile II, wrapped up on Oct. 30. The mission was designed to clamp down on militancy, oil theft and other forms of illegal activity in the Niger Delta. But similar missions — including the original Operation Crocodile Smile — have previously engendered backlash from locals who decried the Nigerian military's (real or imagined) heavy-handed tactics.
In assessing the statement, it's important to remember that the Niger Delta Avengers are limited in their ability to carry out attacks. Though it's perhaps been the only militant group to demonstrate some sustained capabilities since the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta halted its campaign, it's still restricted by resources. If the Niger Delta Avengers resume attacks, they would have a minor effect, potentially reducing Nigeria's oil production and exports by around 50,000-200,000 barrels per day depending on where the attacks occur. Yet the region's various militant groups are prone to grandiose declarations that often go nowhere. The Niger Delta Avengers' tough talk is, at least for now, just talk.