There is mounting evidence that the government of Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’adua is set to launch a full-scale offensive in the Niger Delta when a ceasefire declared by rebels ends tomorrow.
And this time, Nigerian military forces will be using special warships, helicopter gunships and troop transports, and unmanned drone intelligence planes and ships sold to Nigeria by Israeli, Malaysian, Singaporean, Dutch and Russian companies the Inter Press Service reports in an analysis prepared by Washington-DC-based African Security Research Project director Daniel Volman.
Volman notes Israeli and Russian instructors have been providing specialised training to Nigerian Navy and Air Force sailors and pilots in how to operate the ships and helicopters over the past few months, and some of these instructors may help operate them during the offensive.
Yar’adua declared a 60-day amnesty for members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the armed group that has been conducting an insurgency campaign in the Delta for the past five years on July 15.
The amnesty offer is set to expire at midnight on Oct. 4.
The insurgents say that they are fighting to protect the rights of the people who live in the Delta and to get them a fair share of
The Energy Information Administration of the US Department of Energy estimates that if the insurgency ended,
When Pres. Yar’adua announced the amnesty, government officials said that they expected between 8000 and 10 000 insurgents to accept its terms. But only a few hundred of the estimated 12 000-15 000 rebels have handed in their weapons.
Most members of MEND say that the government’s amnesty was not made in good faith and that they have no confidence that that the government will honour its promises to improve the lives of the Delta’s impoverished residents or to fix the massive environmental damage caused by decades of unregulated oil production.
One reason that MEND does not trust Pres. Yar’adua is that the Nigerian government has recently been buying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sophisticated weaponry and military hardware in preparation for a new offensive in the Niger Delta.
These include deals worth $25 million for two 24.8-metre Shaldag MK-2 patrol boats from the Israeli firm, Israel Shipyards – one has already been delivered and the other is on its way – and another deal involves air and sea drones from Aeronautica Ventures, another Israeli company.
Shaldag MK-20 patrol boats are generally armed with a stabilised 25mm automatic cannon and two 12.7mm machine guns. Eighty Nigerian sailors are presently being trained in counterinsurgency operations at the northern Israeli
The Nigerian Navy also recently took delivery of two 38-metre Manta-class patrol boats built by the Nautica Nova Shipbuilding yard in
Four additional 17-metre Manta-class patrol boats have also been delivered to
The Nigerian Navy also recently procured 35 new machine gun-equipped fast patrol boats in a deal that was paid for by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, reportedly on the instructions of Yar’adua. .
The Nigerian Air Force has also received at least 15 Mi-24, Mi-34, and Mi-35 helicopter gunship and troop transport helicopters from
Some of these were reportedly delivered just before President Dimitri Medvedev’s visit to the country in June. “These helicopters are armed with Gatling guns, machine guns, bombs, rocket launchers, and rockets, and can also carry up to eight soldiers at the same time,”Volman says.
Russian instructors are currently in
These helicopter gunships were used extensively by the Soviet Union during its invasion and occupation of
“It is clear that the Nigerian government is getting ready to mount a massive military offensive in the Niger Delta, either when the MEND ceasefire ends on September 15 or when its own amnesty programme ends on October 4. However, despite all the firepower and sophisticated weaponry that it has acquired in recent months, there is no reason to believe that this offensive will be any more successful in bringing the insurgency to an end than any of its previous military operations.
“Moreover, by demonstrating that the Yar’adua government is committed to a military solution to the political, economic and environmental crisis in the Niger Delta, the offensive is very likely to lead to an explosion of violence not just in the Delta, but also throughout the country.
“Tensions in other parts of the country have been mounting in recent months, most notably in the predominantly Muslim states in the north.
“The repression of violence by an Islamic extremist group in the north, which was marked by indiscriminate attacks that killed many innocent people and by the extrajudicial murder of the group’s leader in police custody, alienated many moderate Muslims who previously constituted the government’s base of support.
“They are sure to be further alienated by the growing involvement of Israelis in supporting the government’s offensive against the people of the southern part of
“All this serves to confirm the assessment of US military officers, who increasingly have come to believe that the principal obstacle to a resolution of Nigeria’s continuing crisis is the Nigerian government itself and that the Nigerian elite is bent on committing suicide by continuing its efforts to hold on to power by military force.”
Pic: Niger river