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Timeline of recent unrest in Niger Delta region

Niger Delta states map

Despite abundant oil wealth in the Niger Delta region in southeast Nigeria, residents lack basic services including electricity, piped water, health clinics and schools. The region has seen decades of unrest stemming mostly from local militants’ uprisings over what they call neglect of the moneymaking region.

Below is a timeline of recent events in the Delta.

February 2010

On 2 February Minister of Defence Maj Gen Godwin Abe calls on the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) group to respect the ceasefire members had declared on 25 October 2009 but ended three months later.

January 2010

On 30 January MEND calls off its declared ceasefire threatening an “all-out onslaught” on the oil industry in the Niger Delta oil-producing region and warning of attacks in the weeks to come.

Three British workers and one Colombian are released on 18 January, six days after they were abducted by unknown gunmen near the main oil city of Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta.

December 2009

MEND delivers what it calls a “warning” strike by destroying a major crude pipeline in the Niger Delta on 19 December.

The group expresses frustration over stalled peace talks due to the absence of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua. “A situation where the future of the Niger Delta is tied to the health and well-being of one man is unacceptable,” MEND says in a statement.

November 2009

On 15 November top Nigerian officials meet with MEND leaders in the capital, Abuja, to discuss plans for development of the oil-producing region as part of a drive to end the long-running insurgency.

October 2009

On 25 October MEND reinstates an indefinite ceasefire raising prospects for peace in the troubled oil-producing region after nearly three decades of hostilities.

President Umaru Yar’Adua meets for the first time with the leader of MEND, Henry Okah, in Abuja to diffuse tensions in the Niger Delta on 19 October. The government announces a US$1.3-billion development package to build roads, schools and hospitals in the Niger Delta.

A government amnesty for militants expires on 4 October. Between August and October between 8,000 and 15,000 gunmen have handed in thousands of weapons and renounced violence under the amnesty programme, according to the authorities.

September 2009

On 29 September MEND names a team of negotiators that included Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka for talks with government.

On 15 September MEND extends a two-month ceasefire in the oil-producing region by 30 days, but dismisses as a sham the government’s amnesty programme.

August 2009

The government’s 60-day amnesty programme for the Niger Delta comes into effect. Under the initiative militants who surrender their weapons within the period are to receive training, employment assistance and a government pardon.

The government announces it will give 10 percent of Nigeria’s joint oil ventures to Niger Delta residents.

July 2009

On 15 July MEND announces a unilateral 60-day ceasefire and releases six crew members it had seized from a foreign oil tanker ‘Sichem Peace’.

On 12 July the federal government drops all charges against the leader of MEND, Henry Okah, and releases him from jail. He was on trial for treason and gun-running. On the same day MEND commits a rare raid on an oil offloading facility in Lagos, the group’s first attack outside the Niger Delta in several months. Five people are killed in the attack.

June 2009

On 26 June President Umaru Yar’Adua formally announces details of an amnesty programme for militants in the Niger Delta. MEND rejects the plans by the government and vows to continue attacks on the oil industry until the "injustice" to the oil-rich region is corrected. At least six high-profile attacks on oil well heads, offshore platforms, major pipelines and oil pumping stations are reported in the days following declaration. The group claims at least 20 soldiers were killed in one of the attacks on Shell’s Forcados offshore platform in Delta state. Chevron evacuates hundreds of workers from the Niger Delta after the attacks.

Royal Dutch Shell reaches an out-of-court settlement on 8 June with the Ogoni community in eastern Niger Delta to pay compensation for complicity in the execution of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders of the Ogoni tribe.

May 2009

On 25 May Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) says it has destroyed several oil pipelines which oil company Chevron confirms has cut its production by 100,000 barrels per day.

Clashes between government forces (the Joint Task Force) and militants break out on 12 May. Both sides deny initiating the attack. On 14 May militants take at least 15 hostages; the JTF eventually frees most of them. Rebel leader Tom Polo’s compound is destroyed but he is still said to be at large. Thousands of Niger Delta residents are displaced in the fighting.

March 2009

President Umaru Yar’Adua declares the government will consider a conditional amnesty for militants in the Niger Delta.

February 2009

Joint Task Force destroys prominent ‘Daroama militants’ camp in Bayelsa state.

President Yar’Adua announces the creation of a new government committee to study recommendations of previous Technical Committee set up in September 2008 to recommend solutions for reducing violence in region.

Militants attack a civilian helicopter for first time.

January 2009

Militants call off unilateral ceasefire announced in September 2008, declaring “Hurricane Obama” step-up in attacks, linked to a government offensive on camp of rebel member Ateke Tom.

Civil society group coalition criticizes President Yar’Adua’s silence on Technical Committee recommendations for reducing violence.

December 2008

Government forces arrest militant leader Sabomabo Jackrich.

Government Technical Committee issues recommendations to reduce violence in Niger Delta including appointing a mediator to facilitate discussions between government and militants; granting amnesty to some militant leaders; launching a disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation campaign; and channeling 25 percent of the country’s oil revenue to the Delta, up from the current 13 percent.

November 2008

Military launches crackdown on oil thieves.

September 2008

Militants declare an “oil war” in which they step up attacks on oil facilities and security forces, sparking the heaviest clashes in the region in two years. On 13 September government security forces allegedly raze three villages in Rivers state in search of MEND member Farah Dagogo. Dozens die in attacks, according to International Crisis Group.

Militants take 27 oil workers hostage, later releasing all but two.

On 10 September 2008, Nigerian cabinet appoints a new minister for the region, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Ufot Ekaette. Government forms Technical Committee to recommend ways to reduce violence in the Delta.

At end of month militants declare unilateral ceasefire.

June 2008

President Yar’Adua orders a military crackdown in the Niger Delta following persistent rebel attacks.

February 2008

Prominent militant, Henry Okah, arrested in Angola and is extradited to Nigeria.

November 2007

Militants step up oil pipeline attacks.

August 2007

Government troops continue sweep of restive main oil city of Port Harcourt.

May 2007

President Yar’Adua assumes office. Four American oil workers held by militants for weeks released.

December 2006

Criminal gangs release more than 20 hostages seized some 20 days prior.

December 2006

Three Italian oil workers seized.

November 2006

Soldiers and militants clash in Bayelsa state and at least two militants die in the shootout.

October 2006 to June 2007

Kidnapping of oil workers intensifies.

October 2006

Hundreds of villagers occupy four oil pumping stations in the Niger Delta saying oil company Shell reneged on a promise to give supply contracts to the host community.

October 2006

Army confirmed the killing of nine soldiers in a clash with militants.

September 2006

Soldiers invade Okochiri village, near the main oil city of Port Harcourt, said to be a hideout for suspected kidnappers of oil workers.

September 2006

Oil unions launch a three-day strike over deteriorating security situation in the Niger Delta.

May 2006

A Nigerian court orders oil company Shell Petroleum Development Corporation to pay $1.5 billion in damages to a host community in the Niger Delta for years of environmental pollution. Shell files an appeal and refuses to accept the judgement.

April 2006

President Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurates a forum of Delta activists, elders, officials and youth leaders in bid to end the crisis.

February 2006

The first high-profile seizure of oil workers occurs. Militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a group representing numerous militant factions, abduct nine expatriate oil workers.


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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