A new militant group seems to have emerged in the Niger Delta, an oil-rich area in southern Nigeria. The group, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM), started claiming responsibility for attacks on oil pipelines earlier in September.
The latest attack linked to the group occurred on the Afiesere-Ekiugbo delivery line, in Delta state, on Sunday night (18 September). The line is operated by a unit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and a Nigerian energy company Shoreline.
The new militant group is not taking part in the month-long ceasefire that other groups and the government reached following attacks by Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which brought Nigeria's oil production to a 30-year low.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo claimed the country – Africa's biggest oil producer – now loses "over one million barrels of crude oil on a daily basis."
After repeatedly discrediting governement's claims that a ceasefire had been reached, the NDA – who emerged in 2016 – allegedly agreed to a truce in August.
Shortly after, the NDGJM emerged and started carrying out attacks on oil facilities similar to those blamed on the NDA.
Operation Crocodile Tears
When claiming responsibility for the latest bombing, NDGJM 's spokesperson, Gen Aldo Agbalaja, accused the army's Operation Crocodile Smile – launched to halt renewed violence in the delta – of "being a scam".
"This is to once again emphasise our earlier revelation that the so-called Operation Crocodile Smile is nothing but a scam: some jumbled job, sewn together to retire some recently embezzled military budget," Agbalaja said in a statement.
He also accused the Nigerian government and army – similarly to what other militant groups did in the past – of neglecting communities in the impoverished areas of the Delta.
"You hide behind the guns of the oppressors to pillage our lands and our people, leaving us despoiled and our lands raped. You do all manners of things you will dare not imagine in other parts of the world where you operate. Here, you have failed all basic corporate social responsibilities, leaving the people to languish in lack and ruin."
Other groups, including the NDA, previously accused the army of allegedly harassing innocent people in their pursue to locate and arrest militants.
In response to the military operation, NDGJM launched the so-called Operation Crocodile Tears, which Agbalaja said it would continue until "the federal government takes the proper steps."
The army deemed the militants' operation as an act of terrorism. "They are (militants) terrorists, they want people to be in tears. We (military) want people to smile. They are just terrorising us," Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, said.
The NDA – and, so far, the NDGJM – do not attack people directly, but target oil and gas facilities across the area. However, security analysts have warned that recent military operations launched against militants could spark retaliatory attacks against members of security forces and civilians.
Earlier in September, the Nigerian and US governments announced they would ramp up cooperation to seek a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis the delta.
Birth of militants in Niger Delta
Militant groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta region took hold in the early 2000s following the deterioration of living conditions blamed on the increase of oil-related activities by foreign exploration corporations. Tensions flared up in the local communities as some ethnic groups felt they were being exploited and did not benefit from the crude oil on their land.
The repeated oil spills that considerably damaged the environment and affected people's health further deepened the communities' frustrations. After being elected in 2015, Buhari extended a 2009 amnesty granted to 30,000 former militants in the area.