Recent attacks in the Niger Delta would indicate that security will once more become a national and international strategic issue.
Timeline of events:
14th January: The Federal High Court, Lagos issued an arrest warrant for Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) a former MEND leader turned security contractor on charges of fraud and money laundering.
15 January: Chevron pipelines Escravos-Warri-Abuja-Lagos pipeline blown up in Warri South West LGA, Delta State
15th January: Chevrons pipeline Escravos-Warri-Kaduna blown up in Warri South West LGA, Delta State
16 January: Gas pipelines from Olero to Escravos blown up in Warri South West LGA, Delta State
20th January: NNPC announces the closure of Port Harcourt (4.1m litres per day) and Kaduna Refinery (1.3m litres per day) due to attacks on supply. Warri Refinery (1.4m litres per day) remains operational.
Whilst a straightforward cause and effect appears in play of a former militant reactivating his networks in order to put pressure on the Government not to prosecute him, another interesting situation pertains.
Mr Ekpemupolo is Ijaw from Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State a mixed Ijaw/ Itsekiri area, where he operated from during the Niger Delta insurgency, yet despite a strong military presence these attacks still took place.
This could be attributed to superior local knowledge of the attackers however they have caused a rift between Ijaws and Itsekiris as well as heavily polluted the area.
Following the shut down of the 2 refineries NNPC and 5 major and 15 minor oil marketers began a massive importation of petrol and other products with the NNPC increasing its import allocation for this quarter to 78% (2.42m metric tons of petrol) and reducing the oil marketers import allocation to approximately 22% of the total allocation.
However the Federal Government has not budgeted for and is not paying fuel subsidy and also fixed the price of fuel at the pumps at N86.50.
Despite this fuel is still sold at between N100-120 in many parts of the country and is still much cheaper than in any of Nigeria’s neighbours allowing importers to still turn a reasonable profit.
With the pipelines destroyed and no repair schedule or timeline announced it is also worth recalling that up until July 2015, the NNPC engaged in an extremely expensive scheme to ship crude from production fields to the refineries using oil tankers, an exponentially expensive exercise estimated to have cost $108.6m over a 16 month period during at times the refineries were not working or there was no crude being suppled at all.
However on 29th January Op Pulo Shield the Joint Military/ Law Enforcement Task Force arrested Prince Alvin Cockman Oyegun (aka Commander Abula) on suspicion of involvement in the attacks.
In an added twist on 4th February The DSS charged Nengi Ikiba a former militant and ally of ex Bayelsa State Governor Sylva Timipere (APC) with threatening to destroy pipelines in the event he was not awarded a pipeline security contract.
None of these factors prove or even indicate anything nor do they explain the cause of the renewed attacks or help predict if or where there will be further attacks.
They are just factors to be considered in the ever murky and opaque theatre that is the Niger Delta.