A newly-established militant group has claimed responsibility for an attack at a Shell-owned pipeline in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region. The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) explained on Twitter the attack was carried out after the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) carried out repair works on the pipeline, in spite of the group's warning not to do so.

"At 3am Niger Delta Avengers blow up SPDC Forcados 48 export line. We warned SPDC not to go on ahead with the repair work but they refuse. This is an example to all other multinationals," the group said. In another tweet, NDA vowed to bring Nigeria's oil production to zero and claimed responsibility for another attack at an ENI-owned pipeline in Bayelsa State.

NDA is the latest militant organisation to wage war against Nigeria due to perceived marginalisation in the Niger Delta. Earlier this year, attacks blamed on NDA partially halted oil production and forced Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell to close two plants.

In an exclusive report by IBTimes UK, a man suspected of belonging to the NDA warned the life of President Muhammadu Buhari was in danger if he visited the Niger Delta, as planned. In a recording sent to IBTimes UK, the 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 was supposed to travel to Ogoniland to meet regional leaders to discuss ways to tackle renewed violence in the area and to launch a clean-up operation in areas polluted by years of oil spills. The visit, however, was cancelled with no official reason given for the cancellation. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo travelled to the restive south-east instead of the president.

Fuel crisis

The prolonged problem of attacks on oil pipelines, a foreign exchange crisis and the drop in global oil prices have exacerbated an ongoing fuel shortage in Nigeria, for which the previous administration had often been blamed.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer, but its lack of refineries mean the country has to export about 90% of its crude oil and import petroleum products at international prices. The government has been selling fuel to Nigerians at subsidised rates, reimbursing the difference to importers.

However, this changed in May 2016, when the government announced petrol prices would rise to 145 naira (50p), up from about 86.5 naira (30p). The move angered many, with trade and labour unions labelling the decision "criminal" and calling for a strike, which was later cancelled.

Oil pipelines in Nigeria
Oil pipelines are seen running through Okrika, a town in the Niger Delta, Nigeria Getty Images

The birth of militant groups in Niger Delta

Militant groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta region took hold in the early 2000s following the deterioration of people's 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.

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