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Fresh militia attack kills two, threatens truce in oil region

[Nigeria] Ijaw militants loyal to Dokubo Asari display their guns and magic charms in Okoronta village in the Niger Delta in July 2004
(George Osodi/IRIN )

A militia leader in Nigeria’s troubled Niger Delta said on Friday that two of his followers were killed in an attack by a rival group, the first since a five-week-old ceasefire in the oil-rich region.

Moujahid Dokubo-Asari, who leads the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), said the two militiamen were attacked and killed while unarmed at home on Wednesday in a suburb of Nigeria’s oil industry hub, Port Harcourt, which is also the capital of the southern state of Rivers.

It was the first attack reported since late September, when the NDPVF threatened all-out war on the government and international oil companies that produce the 2.5 million barrels of crude oil which Nigeria exports daily. The
threat was to back demands for access to more oil wealth for the Niger Delta’s impoverished inhabitants.

The threat was suspended by the group after President Olusegun Obasanjo invited Dokubo-Asari for negotiations in the capital, Abuja, stopped a military campaign against the militia, and got it to sign a ceasefire with the rival, pro-government Niger Delta Vigilantes (NDV) group, led by Ateke Tom.

The two militias have since surrendered more than 700 assault rifles under a disarmament programme agreed with the government.

”It is the Ateke group that killed two of our members,” Dokubo-Asari told IRIN. ”But we don’t think we should retaliate. What we’re fighting for is more noble than theirs.”

An NDV spokesman, Allison Anderson, acknowledged there had been a clash in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, but denied his group was responsible for it.

Rivers State government spokesman Emmanuel Okah also confirmed the attack which, he said, was being investigated by the police. He said it was too early to say which group was to be blamed for it.

”I’m aware there has been an incident which involved the loss of lives, but I can’t tell which group was responsible until the police conclude their investigations,” Okah said.

More than a decade of restiveness in the Niger Delta has escalated in recent years with the emergence of heavily armed militias. These groups fight each other and the security forces for payoffs from oil companies and control of routes for the smuggling of crude oil tapped illegally from pipelines for
sale to offshore vessels.

Many analysts believe the truce secured by the government is only temporary, and is likely to collapse because the underlying social crisis and tensions feeding the violence in the Niger Delta have not been dealt with.

”There’s massive unemployment and poverty in the Niger Delta, and most of the jobless youths recruited into these militias, who have tasted the power of the gun, are not likely to give up easily,” said Pius Waritimi, a university teacher and resident of Port Harcourt.

”It will only take a couple more incidents like this for the truce to unravel,” he added.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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