Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta

Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta ("MEND") is one of the largest militant groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The organization claims to expose exploitation and oppression of the people of the Niger Delta and devastation of the natural environment by public-private partnerships between the Federal Government of Nigeria and corporations involved in the extraction of oil in the Niger Delta. The Economist has described the organization as one that "portrays itself as political organisation that wants a greater share of Nigeria’s oil revenues to go to the impoverished region that sits atop the oil. In fact, it is more of an umbrella organisation for several armed groups, which it sometimes pays in cash or guns to launch attacks."[1] MEND has been linked to attacks on petroleum operations in Nigeria as part of the Conflict in the Niger Delta, engaging in actions including sabotage, theft, property destruction, guerrilla warfare, and kidnapping.[2]

MEND's stated goals are to localize control of Nigeria's oil and to secure reparations from the federal government for pollution caused by the oil industry. In an interview with one of the group's leaders, who used the alias Major-General Godswill Tamuno, the BBC reported that MEND was fighting for "total control" of the Niger Delta's oil wealth, saying local people had not gained from the riches under the ground and the region's creeks and swamps."[3]

In a January 2006 email, MEND warned the oil industry, "It must be clear that the Nigerian government cannot protect your workers or assets. Leave our land while you can or die in it.... Our aim is to totally destroy the capacity of the Nigerian government to export oil."[4] Additionally MEND has called upon President Olusegun Obasanjo to free two jailed Ijaw leaders — Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who is jailed and charged with treason, and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a former governor of Bayelsa State convicted of corruption. Obasanjo's successor, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua authorised the release of Dokubo-Asari and Alamieyeseigha in 2007.[5]


Origins and context

For the roughly fifty years since Nigeria declared independence from British colonial rule, oil has been produced in Nigeria. Throughout this period, corporate politics has intersected with successive dictatorships. Under these dictatorships the Nigerian government has signed laws that appropriated oil resources and placed these under the control of multinational oil companies, such as Chevron Corporation and most notoriously, Royal Dutch Shell.

From the point of view of MEND, and its supporters, the people of the Niger Delta have suffered an unprecedented degradation of their environment due to unchecked pollution produced by the oil industry. As a result of this policy of dispossessing people from their lands in favor of foreign oil interests, within a single generation, many now have no ability to fish or farm. People living in the Niger Delta have found themselves in a situation where their government and the international oil companies own all the oil under their feet, the revenues of which are rarely seen by the people who are suffering from the consequences of it.

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, has said of the situation, "The oil companies can't pretend they don't know what's happening all around them. The Nigerian government obviously has the primary responsibility to stop human rights abuse. But the oil companies are directly benefiting from these crude attempts to suppress dissent, and that means they have a duty to try and stop it." Eghare W.O. Ojhogar, chief of the Ugborodo community, said: "It is like paradise and hell. They have everything. We have nothing... If we protest, they send soldiers."

Over the last twenty years various political movements and activists have emerged in opposition to the perceived injustices perpetrated upon the people of the Niger Delta by the government and the oil companies. These were usually nonviolent; Ken Saro-Wiwa was the most famous activist. Saro-Wiwa was an Ogoni poet-turned-activist who was executed by the Nigerian government in 1995 on what many believe to be deliberately false charges with the aim of silencing his vocal opposition to the oil interests in Nigeria. In Saro-Wiwa's footsteps came others who, having seen the government's reaction to nonviolent activism, advocated violence as resistance to what they regarded as the enslavement of their people. Militants in the delta enjoy widespread support among the region's approximately 20 million people, most of whom live in poverty despite the enormous wealth generated in the oil-rich region.[6]

Constituency and organization

MEND is closely connected with Asari's Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force, a rebel group with similar aims. MEND reportedly seeks "a union of all relevant militant groups in the Niger Delta."[7] However, the identity of MEND is somewhat obscure since its leaders like to remain faceless[8] and its cause has been taken up by completely unrelated groups inspired by the original MEND, one of which is claiming responsibility for some of the violence that has occurred. However, the original members of MEND (recognized as MEND by the United States government and Chevron security), have claimed that impostors are causing some of the violence that is now occurring.[9]

MEND's evolving approach to conducting warfare has been described as "open source",[10] so called because it is analogous to the decentralized communal development process now prevalent in the software industry, making it extremely quick to innovate and move new technologies and tactics rapidly from cell to cell without the direction of a vulnerable leadership hierarchy.[11] Former United States Air Force "counter-terrorism" officer, technology analyst, and software entrepreneur, John Robb, in a Wired Magazine interview about the emergence of "open source guerrillas", alleged that MEND "doesn’t even field its own guerillas. They hire their experts and fighters mostly from criminal gangs and tribal warrior cults to do their operations." [12]


MEND's attacks involve substantially more sophisticated tactics than those of previous militant groups in the Niger Delta. MEND's recent tactics have included:

  • Swarm-based maneuvers: guerrillas are using speed boats in the Niger Delta's swamps to quickly attack targets in succession. Multiple, highly maneuverable units have kept the government and Shell's defensive systems off-balance defending their sprawling networks.
  • Radically improved firepower and combat training: allowing guerrillas to overpower a combination of Shell's Western-trained private military guards and elite Nigerian units in several engagements. (One of Shell's private military operators was captured as a hostage.)
  • Effective use of system disruption: targets have been systematically and accurately selected to completely shut down production and delay and/or halt repairs, and the guerrillas are making effective use of Shell's hostages to coerce both the government and the multinational.[10]

The militants have repeatedly bombed pipelines, triggering an international increase in the cost of oil. They have also kidnapped foreign oil workers.

Timeline of activities


Nine officials for the Italian petrol company Eni SpA were killed when armed members of MEND attacked Eni SpA's security forces in Port Harcourt. MEND militants briefly occupied and robbed a bank near the Eni SpA base, leaving at about 3:30 p.m, about an hour after they showed up.

A company official stated, "Eni has temporarily evacuated staff and contractors from the area of the base affected by the incident and the situation is currently under control."

MEND issued a statement regarding the oil workers: "Be assured therefore that the hostages in return, will remain our guests... the hostages are in good health and have adapted fairly well to the conditions under which the people of the Niger Delta have been kept."

On May 10, 2006, an executive with the United States-based oil company Baker Hughes was shot and killed in the south-eastern city of Port Harcourt. At the time of the shooting, it was not immediately known if MEND had any involvement or not. Witnesses say the attacker appeared to be specifically targeting the US executive.

On June 2, 2006 a Norwegian rig offshore Nigeria was attacked and 16 crew members were kidnapped. According to the news agency Reuters, MEND has not taken responsibility for this attack.[13]

On August 20, 2006, 10 MEND members were killed by the Nigerian military. The members were working on releasing a Royal Dutch Shell hostage. In an email to REUTERS, MEND stated, "Our response to Sunday's killings will come at our time, but for certain it will not go unpunished."

On October 2, 2006, 10 Nigerian soldiers were killed off the shore of the Niger Delta in their patrol boat by a MEND mortar shell. Earlier that day a Nigerian/Royal Dutch Shell convoy was attacked in the Port Harcourt region resulting in some people being wounded.

On October 3, 2006, a militant group abducted four Scots, a Malaysian, an Indonesian and a Romanian from a bar in Akwa Ibom state.

On October 4, 2006, Nigerian soldiers attacked a militant camp, in the ensuing battle 9 Nigerian soldiers were killed.

On November 22, 2006, Nigerian soldiers attempted a rescue of kidnapped oil workers which resulted in one soldier being killed.


On May 1, 2007, at 4:15 a.m., MEND attacked Chevron's Oloibiri floating production, storage, and offloading vessel off the coast of the southern Bayelsa state. After one hour of fighting with security boats, resulting in the death of 10 people, MEND seized six expatriate workers, consisting of four Italians (Mario Celentano, Raffaele Pasceriello, Ignazio Gugliotta, Alfonso Franza), an American (John Stapelton), and a Croat (Jurica Ruic). On the same day, MEND published photos of the captives seated on white plastic chairs in a wooden shelter around the remains of a campfire.[14]

On May 3, 2007, MEND seized eight foreign hostages from another offshore vessel. The hostages were released less than 24 hours later, stating they had intended to destroy the vessel and did not want more hostages.

On May 8, 2007, three major oil pipelines (one in Brass and two in the Akasa area) were attacked, shutting down oil production and cutting power to a facility run by Italian oil company Agip, part of the ENI energy group. An e-mail statement from a MEND spokesperson said, "Fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) attacked and destroyed three major pipelines in Bayelsa state... We will continue indefinitely with attacks on all pipelines, platforms and support vessels."

On September 23, 2007, a MEND spokesperson named Jomo Gbomo announced, through a communiqué to the Philadelphia Independent Media Center, that media reports of his arrest and detention were false; and then further informed, through the letter, that MEND had officially declared war, effective 12 midnight, September 23, 2007, and that they would be commencing "attacks on installations and abduction of expatriates."

On November 13, 2007, MEND militants attacked Cameroonian soldiers on the disputed Bakassi peninsula, killing more than 20 soldiers; three days after this incident, a southern Cameroonian rebel group claimed responsibility for the attack.[15]


On May 3, 2008, MEND militants attacked Shell-operated pipelines in Nigeria, forcing the company to halt 170,000 barrels per day (27,000 m3/d) of exports of Bonny Light crude.[16]

On June 20, 2008, MEND naval forces attacked the Shell-operated Bonga oil platform, shutting down 10% of Nigeria's oil production in one fell swoop. The oil platform, Shell's flagship project in the area capable of extracting a massive 200,000 barrels (32,000 m3) of oil a day, was widely assumed to be outside the reach of the militants due to its location 120 km off-shore. This attack has demonstrated a level of prowess and sophistication never before seen by the rebels and it is now known that all of Nigeria's oil platforms are within range of MEND attack.[17]

On September 14, 2008, MEND inaugurated Operation Hurricane Barbarossa with an ongoing string of militant attacks to bring down the oil industry in Rivers State.[18]

In September 2008, MEND released a statement proclaiming that their militants had launched an "oil war" throughout the Niger Delta against both pipelines and oil production facilities, and the Nigerian soldiers that protect them. In the statement MEND claimed to have killed 22 Nigerian soldiers in one attack against a Chevron-owned oil platform. The Nigerian government confirmed that their troops were attacked in numerous locations, but said that all assaults were repelled with the infliction of heavy casualties on the militants.[19]

On September 27, a week after declaring an oil war and destroying several significant oil production and transportation hubs in the delta,[20] the group declared a ceasefire until "further notice" upon the intervention of Ijaw and other elders in the region.[21]


MEND called off its ceasefire on January 30, 2009.[22]

Equatorial Guinea blamed MEND for an attack on the presidential palace in Malabo on February 17, which resulted in the death of at least one attacker. MEND denied involvement.[23][24]

On May 15, 2009, a military operation undertaken by a Joint Task Force (JTF) began against MEND.[25] It came in response to the kidnapping of Nigerian soldiers and foreign sailors in the Delta region.[26] Thousands of Nigerians have fled their villages and hundreds of people may be dead because of the offensive.[27]

MEND has claimed responsibility for pipeline attacks on June 18–21 on three oil installations belonging to Royal Dutch Shell in the Niger Delta. In a campaign labeled by the group as "Hurricane Piper Alpha", Chevron was also warned that it would "pay a price" for allowing the Nigerian military use of an oil company airstrip.[28]

On June 18, MEND claimed they had blown up a Shell pipeline, as a warning to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev who was arriving to Nigeria the next day and to any potential foreign investors [29]

July 6, MEND claimed responsibility for an attack on the Okan oil manifold. The pipeline was blown up at 8:45 p.m. (3:45 p.m. ET) Sunday. The militants claim that the manifold carried some 80 percent of Chevron Nigeria Limited's off-shore crude oil to a loading platform.

In a separate action on the same day, the group said that three Russians, two Filipinos and an Indian were seized Sunday from the Siehem Peace oil tanker about 20 miles (32 km) from the southern port city of Escravos.[30]

MEND carried out its first attack in Lagos late July 11. Rebels attacked and set on fire the Atlas Cove Jetty on Tarkwa Bay, which is a major oil hub for Nigeria. Five workers were killed in the strike.[31]

As at 17th of Oct, reliable sources stated that The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) would resume its hostilities against the Nigerian oil industry, the Nigerian Armed Forces and its collaborators with effect from (no time specified) hours, Friday, October 16, 2009," the group's spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, said in the statement.[32]

Oct 25 MEND announces unilateral truce and accepts the government's proposal for reintegration.[33]


Jan 30: MEND called off its unilateral truce and threatened an "all-out onslaught" against the oil industry.[34]

March 15: Two bombs exploded at a Government House of Nigeria during the Post Amnesty Dialogue in Warri. The bombs killed three people and injured six more. The explosion damaged the Government House and other buildings in the area. MEND claimed responsibility for this attack.[35]

October 1: Two bombs exploded at Abuja during a parade. 12 killed 17 injured. Bomb was 1 KM away from president Goodluck Jonathan. MEND claimed responsibility and also claim to have sent warning in the form of an email to a journalist half-an-hour before the bombs detonated.

November 8: Gunmen raid an oil rig off Nigeria, kidnapping Two Americans, two Frenchmen, two Indonesians, and a Canadian. MEND claimed responsibility.[36]

November 15: MEND attack on an Exxon Mobil oil platform, kidnapping seven Nigerian workers.[37]

November 21: The rebels say they have sabotaged an oil pipeline feeding the refinery in Warri in the Niger Delta.[38]


March 16: A bomb exploded on an oil platform Agip in southern Nigeria. This is for the first MEND attack on a major bombing campaign.[39]

See also


  1. ^ Risky toughness. The Economist. September 18, 2008.
  2. ^ Hanson, Stephanie (2007-03-22). "MEND: The Niger Delta’s Umbrella Militant Group". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  3. ^ Nigeria's shadowy oil rebels. BBC News Online. April 20, 2006.
  4. ^
  5. ^ International Crisis Group (December 5, 2007). Nigeria - Ending the unrest in the Niger Delta. Africa Report No. 135.
  6. ^ Howden, Daniel (January 17, 2006). Shell may pull out of Niger Delta after 17 die in boat raid. CorpWatch.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Nigeria's shadowy oil rebels". BBC News. April 20, 2006. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Brenna, Jarle (June 2, 2006). Vi frykter det verste Norsk borerigg angrepet utenfor Nigeria. VG Nett. (in Norwegian)
  14. ^ Oil worker kidnappings continue in Nigeria. Oil & Gas Journal. May 1, 2007.
  15. ^ Nigeria and Cameroon probe attack. BBC News Online. November 14, 2007.
  16. ^ Tan, Sophie (May 6, 2008). Oil trades near $120 after rising to record on demand outlook. Bloomberg L.P..
  17. ^ Nigerian attack closes oilfield. BBC News Online. June 20, 2008.
  18. ^ Pflanz, Mike (September 15, 2008). Nigerian militants launch 'Hurricane Barbarossa' against oil plants. The Daily Telegraph.
  19. ^ Nigeria militants warn of oil war. BBC News Online. September 14, 2008.
  20. ^ Amaize, Emma (October 12, 2008). Nigeria: Yar'Adua - a Litany of Nightmares On the N-Delta. Vanguard.
  21. ^ Nigerian oil rebels call ceasefire. Al Jazeera. September 21, 2008.
  22. ^ Ceasefire called off in Nigeria. BBC News Online. January 30, 2009.
  23. ^ Equatorial Guinea arrests 15 over attack on capital. The Guardian (Nigeria). February 20, 2009.
  24. ^ Equatorial Guinea: Authorities Say Attack Was Not Coup Plot. The Post February 20, 2009.
  25. ^ Fatade, Wale; Owete, Festus; Okulaja, Ayo (May 28, 2009). Niger Delta offensive intensifies. NEXT.
  26. ^ Walker, Andrew (May 27, 2009). Will Nigeria oil offensive backfire?. BBC News Online.
  27. ^ Thousands flee violence, hundreds suspected dead. IRIN News. May 22, 2009.
  28. ^ Izundu, Uchenna (June 23, 2009). Militants launch attacks on Shell's Nigerian installations. Oil & Gas Journal.
  29. ^ Nigerian militants claim bomb. CNN. June 19, 2009.
  30. ^ Nigerian militants claim pipeline blast, tanker crew's seizure. CNN. July 6, 2009.
  31. ^ Nigerian oil rebels attack Lagos
  32. ^ Nigerian Military beefs up security in Niger Delta
  33. ^ Nigeria militants reinstate truce
  34. ^ Nigeria militants end truce in Niger Delta oil region
  35. ^ Three killed in Delta car bomb blasts
  36. ^ “He’s not afraid of stuff like that.” Allen, Kate. Toronto Star, 9 Nov 2010.
  37. ^ Militants kidnap 7 from Exxon Platform off Nigeria. Tattersall, Nick. Euronews, 16 Nov 2010.
  38. ^
  39. ^

External links

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