MEND Threatens Ports

Risk advisories for Nigeria have been issued following the threat issued yesterday by The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a militant group from the oil-rich delta region of Nigeria.

In a statement published online Jomo Gbomo – a pseudonym used by MEND’s spokesperson – warned that the group would commence bomb attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta and other strategic locations in Abuja and Lagos. The statement indicated that as part of its new offensive MEND would target both political rallies and the oil industry ahead of general elections in April. There is concern that MEND will not confine its attacks on the oil industry to installations situated in the Niger Delta but will also conduct attacks within port areas.

The group has issued several warnings in the past couple of months which are a clear sign of heightened tensions ahead of the polls.

The statement specified that “due to our commitment to avert avoidable loss of lives, advance warnings for immediate evacuation (as previously), will be issued and a final warning thirty (30) minutes prior to the blasts, after which will follow a statement of claim in line with our modus operandi”.

Gbomo’s statement, which advised members of the public to avoid political gatherings, specified that attacks “would be catastrophic.” The statement criticises President Goodluck Jonathan’s government for having shown an unwillingness to address the key issues of the Niger Delta.  According to Gbomo, the Nigerian Government has “chosen to continue doling out bribes to thugs and to plunder the resources of the Niger Delta” while President Goodluck Jonathan is accused of “deceiving the world and Nigerians that there is peace in the Niger Delta.”

The statement went on to specify that “Our revolution, like our fellow brothers in Northern Africa, will start with the crippling of the Nigerian oil industry to flush out all western oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region and the simultaneous bomb blasts never anticipated in the history of this country.” MEND’s spokesperson then added that “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta salutes the courage and dedication of its fighters who have against all odds persisted in the fight for justice.”

However, although very clear in its threats it is not at all clear just what operational capacity the group still has. MEND’s suspected leader, Henry Okah, remains in detention while a number of other suspected ringleaders have been arrested.

Following the recent visit of an Israeli trade delegation to Nigeria, Israel’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Moshe Ram, has stated that his government are prepared to assist Nigeria in combating terrorism. Speaking to journalists Ram said that today no country is spared from the ongoing global spread of terror. The Ambassador added, in reference to attacks within Israel, that “we were exposed to this insanity”.

The threat from MEND is unlikely to be contained by pledges of assistance made by Israel’s Ambassador, however, if technical support and know-how is forthcoming Nigeria would stand to benefit considerably. Ram has made assurances in regards to Israel’s willingness to share its experience in combating terrorism with Nigeria. Israeli firms have also expressed in interest in further developing business relations with Nigeria, technology companies are expected to conduct a considerable volume of affairs over the next few years.

See also: NPA Closing Security Deal

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Mark Lowe, Tuesday 15 March 2011

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