A suspected member of a newly established militant group in Nigeria has warned the life of President Muhammadu Buhari is in danger if he visits the oil-rich Niger Delta region. In a recording sent to IBTimes UK, a man is heard saying during a phone conversation with one of the hosts of UK-based Radio Biafra, that Buhari "should sign his death warrant" before his visit.
Buhari is due to visit some states in south-eastern Nigeria to discuss with local leaders ways to tackle renewed violence in the area.
The president's planned visit – which is expected to begin on Thursday (2 June 2016) – comes as attacks on oil pipelines blamed on the new group Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) partially halted oil production, and forced Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell to close at least two plants.
"Buhari is trying to visit Ogoniland, but he should sign his death warrant before coming to Port Harcourt or try to visit any state of the Niger Delta community, Biafra land," the suspected NDA member said during the phone call.
"We are starting a dance he cannot finish. We shall dance like vultures. He [Buhari] has dared to wake a sleeping lion, but I promise him this time around if he tries to step his foot in any community of the Niger Delta, in Biafraland, he will not go back alive. Any Niger Deltan who will try to walk with Buhari shall also go to his grave that day. This is our assurance."
Killings of pro-Biafrans
The man also condemned the fact that Nigerian security forces opened fire on pro-Biafran demonstrators during commemorations to pay homage to the victims of the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War, also known as Biafran War, on Monday (30 May 2016). Police confirmed the deaths of 10 protesters and two police officers during clashes in Anambra state, claiming demonstrators were armed. Pro-Biafrans denied the allegations.
"The Nigerian government shot and killed our brothers. They showed us are the monsters," the man said. He then urged all pro-Biafrans to pray for their leader Nnamdi Kanu – director of radio Biafra and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra [IPOB] – who is standing trial on six counts of treasonable felony charges.
Buhari 'can go wherever he wants'
Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, Nigeria's director of defence information, told IBTimes UK the government does not perceive NDA as a threat. "Niger Delta is part of Nigeria and will remain part of Nigeria for life. Buhari is the president, he is number one, he can go anywhere he wants," he said.
"[The] NDA are just criminals and we are treating them as criminals. We are not being intimidated, we remain focussed to ensure security in the country and that Nigeria remains one. Nobody is above the interest of the country," he continued.
"No nation can tolerate an individual group causing havoc and advocating for separation. There are measures in our constitution to ensure this will not happen. We cannot and will not tolerate what these people are doing. In the long run, they will surely pay for they have done."
NDA and pro-Biafrans
Pro-Biafrans are demanding the independence of Biafran territories forcibly annexed to Nigeria during British colonisation, which ended in 1960.
Intelligence consultant David Otto believes NDA also has secessionist views, and this can explain their support for the Biafra cause. "The Avengers could be that official military wing that IPOB and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob) never had," he said.
"The direct threat to the life of the President may not be substantiated, but it is bold move for the Avengers. On the other hand, NDA could be teasing the government security services to overreact with more brute force – a move that will galvanise more hatred and distrust. These are signs of future uncertainty in the region – but how the government reacts will be key to peace or further chaos," Otto, who is the CEO of UK-based global security provider TGS Intelligence Consultants, continued.
"Some prominent ex militants of the Niger Delta region promised hell if their brother, then President Goodluck Jonathan, did not win the 2015 election. We are now seeing those threats manifesting in various shapes and sizes in the South East and South South."