A turning point for Nigeria’s insurgency?

The last two weeks have seen a storm of insurgent activity in Nigeria: Shell’s onshore output has been halved to around 140,000 barrels a day, Chevron has lost about the same again (taking the aggregate output lost to over to a fifth of Nigeria’s total) – and for the first time Lagos has been attacked.  According to Africasia.com,

Fighters from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) attacked the facility, the first strike in Nigeria’s economic nerve centre since the oil insurgency was launched in 2006. Rescuers said five people were burnt beyond recognition in the blast.

“The militants went into open shooting with the naval officers guarding the facility but they were overpowered. They used dynamite to destroy the manifold,” said Geofrey Boukoru, a member of the emergency rescue team.

The militants arrived in four speed boats, exchanging fire sporadically with the navy for about three hours before hurling dynamite into the facility, said a senior official from the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, an affiliate of the state-run petroleum corporation.

The Lagos attack took place just before the federal government’s planned amnesty release of Henry Okah, the head of MEND – a release that, in the event, still went ahead despite the attack.  MEND has since said in a statement that it “considers this release as a step towards genuine peace and prosperity if Nigeria is open to frank talks and deals sincerely with the root issues once and for all” – although as Abubakar Momoh of Lagos State University observes to AlJazeera, “What the government has done in the case of Okah is like treating the symptom and not curing the disease … there are issues that drove the militants to the trenches. Until those issues are resolved in a fair and just manner, there will never be peace in the Niger Delta.”

As David noted back in November last year, counter-insurgency expert John Robb has called Henry Okah “one of the most important people alive today, a brilliant innovator in warfare”. Here’s Robb’s account of how Okah did it. (more…)