Nigerian militants vow to expand attacks

The main armed group in southern Nigeria said on Wednesday it will resume attacks on the oil industry when its ceasefire expires on October 15.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) dismissed a government amnesty programme as a ”charade” and warned it would no longer limit its attacks to pipelines.

”The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta will resume with attacks against the oil industry at the expiration of our ceasefire,” the group said in an email.

The armed group had on July 15 declared a 60-day ceasefire, which it extended by 30 days on September 15.

”Mend considers this next phase of our struggle as the most critical as we intend to end 50 years of slavery of the people of the Niger Delta by the Nigerian government, a few individuals and the Western oil companies once and for all,” the text said.

The group warned oil companies ”to disregard” what it called government ”propaganda” by saying that the amnesty was a success.

”In this next phase, we will burn down all attacked installations and no longer limit our attacks to the destruction of pipelines,” said Mend, which has always expressed its reservations about the amnesty for militants.

President Umaru Yar’Adua declared in June an unconditional amnesty for all Niger Delta militants who surrendered their arms and embraced peace.

The amnesty, which officially came into operation on August 6, ended on October 4 and authorities have described it as a success.

Information Minister Dora Akunyili said on Wednesday that the militants’ ”positive response” to the amnesty was ”a major breakthrough” in government efforts to stem the wave of violence in Niger Delta.

The government is determined to take all necessary steps to ”bring long lasting peace and development” to the region, she said in a statement.

Mend said most of those who surrendered their arms as militants at different locations in the region under the amnesty were ”rented by the government in the hope that real militants would be persuaded to emerge”.

It described the exercise as ”fraud” and a ”charade” and that the recovered weapons were purchased for the purpose.

”The government does not have up to two thousand of the several thousand weapons in the delta to show for this shameless charade,” it added.

Mend said it would not be represented at a meeting the government has convened with stakeholders in the Niger Delta crisis on Friday. ”The government, in trying to further insult the people of the Niger Delta, has selected to ‘dialogue’ with a class of individuals it can very easily manage,” Mend said.

It accused the government of planning to sell lands of the people of the Niger Delta without consultations.

”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.

Niger Delta militants launched an armed insurgency in 2006, saying they were fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenues to the region’s impoverished communities.

Violence in the volatile region in the past three years — characterised by killings, abduction of mostly foreign oil workers and sabotaging of oil pipelines and facilities — sharply knocked the country’s oil output. — Sapa-AFP

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