The coalition of Niger Delta militants is resounding its demands with regards to the evacuation of northerners from the region, resource control, and the declaration of an independent republic. Asking northerners to leave the region is among the latest additions to the existing list of demands which militants from the region have previously made.
According to the statement, northerners in the Niger Delta region have until October 1 (three months’ time) to leave or face devastating consequences. In addition to their exit, they are required to relinquish ownership of any oil blocs within the region. The militants first made this declaration on June 9 in response to a similar one made by Arewa Youth against Igbos in the northern part of the country.
The reinforced demand of the militants come after Vice President Yemi Osibanjo met with governors from the South-East region at the presidential villa two days ago. In his opening speech, Vice President Osibanjo cautioned against such reactions to the northern declaration, and generally advised against divisive agitations in the country. The vice president even made it known that those who go out of their way to engage in nationally divisive actions would face the wrath of the law when apprehended.
Yet, part of the reasons for the militants’ declaration is that none of those responsible for the same attitude towards Igbos in the north have been punished. As a matter of fact, the groups claim the reason for this is because key members of the country’s law enforcement agencies were aware and in support of the Arewa Youth declaration.
To this end, their present demands – which they emphasise are not just threats – are summarised as follows:
- That all northerners leave the Niger Delta region by October 1. Any northerner found in the region after that date would be “treated as an intruder.”
- That oil and gas companies PENGASSAN and NUPENG shut down operations in the region by the same date and pull out their staff, or risk their lives.
- That all oil blocs owned by northerners be returned to the people from the Niger Delta region.
- That all oil and gas companies operating in blocs, wells, and platforms owned by northerners should also evacuate the region before the given date.
- That NNPC Headquarters be relocated to the region, and the Group Managing Director be replaced by a Niger Delta indigene.
- That all oil and gas-related boards, offices, and agencies, be relocated to the region, and their members and staff replaced with indigenes.
Leaders from nine Niger Delta militant groups signed the coalition’s reaffirmation of demands. The groups stress that with these demands, they will be able to give the Niger Delta people “a nation that shall guarantee equal opportunity, justice, and shall respect the rule of law and uphold the sanctity of human life.”
Besides the recent call for northerners to leave their region, some of the demands of the Niger Delta militants are familiar. Last year, the Niger Delta Avengers threatened to declare a new republic on October 1, if the demands that they made at the time were not met. Several negotiations after seem to show the reach of a tentative agreement between the militants and the government
However, the latest developments in the region, including the rebranded emergence of the Avengers, the quit notice for northerners, and a vendetta against Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, show a renewed volatility.