As the Niger Delta Avengers threatens to resume fresh attacks on oil facilities in Nigeria, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and others have said such action would have a grave impact on the nation’s economy and its people.
They, therefore, urged the government to engage the militants to avert such attacks.
The group had announced an immediate end to its ceasefire with the Federal Government in a statement posted on its website on Friday.
It had also accused the Federal Government of being insincere despite the commitment by the leaders of the region to broker peace, saying that the government was only interested in the oil being derived from the Niger Delta.
In the statement signed by the group’s spokesman, Murdoch Agbinibo, NDA said Operation Red Economy, which it had declared following the intervention of the Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Forum, was officially over.
It declared that the fresh attacks would affect the nation’s oil facilities in the region and stop oil production, saying it was not interested in having further negotiations with the Federal Government.
But President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Frank Jacobs, described the situation as unfortunate, noting that an attack on oil installations at a time when Nigeria was still recovering from arguably its worst economic crisis, would deal a huge blow to its economy.
He said, “It is unfortunate if that is what the NDA wants to do, especially at this time that the economy is getting out of recession, when oil production is becoming steady and price of oil is going up.
“It will deal a terrible blow to the country and it is my hope that the government won’t allow that to happen. The government should engage them, find out what their issues are and find a way to address them because if they succeed, it might be disastrous for the economy.”
Jacobs also said the effects of such attacks would be greatly felt by manufacturers, who rely on foreign exchange to bring in raw materials and machinery.
Similarly, the Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, said should the militants carry out their threats, “it will cause a setback for Nigeria.”
Yusuf described the Nigerian economy as oil-sensitive, adding, “The economy is just recovering and gathering momentum and the bulk of this recovery is arising from oil price recovery and oil output stability; if anything happens to any of those two variables, the shock will be a lot to the system. Therefore, we need to step up engagements with these people, at least to prevent these attacks.”
President, Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria, Dr. Femi Egbesola, said resumed attacks on oil facilities could once again lead to the closure of small businesses and loss of jobs in the long run.
He said, “It means we will have less crude oil to produce and export, which will lead to a reduction in revenue and foreign exchange. Every sector in the economy will be affected.
“Small businesses will also be affected by the loss in naira value as the cost of raw materials will increase, which will lead to selling at a reduced profit.”
The Head, Department of Economics, Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Abayomi Adebayo, said the way forward to end agitations in the country was for the Federal Government to heed the calls for restructuring.
He said, “It’s a disaster in waiting. It will also lead to the reduction in productivity of oil companies. Lives will also be lost. I pray the government responds adequately. I see it as a protest against the delay in restructuring the country.”
A professor of energy economics at the University of Ibadan, Adeola Adenikinju, said, “It is not a good omen for the country that is just coming out of recession. Probably the government has not fulfilled its promises to the militants; it should quickly call them to the table. Negotiations are very important. We should not take their threat lightly.”
The Managing Director and Chief Executive of Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, also said the new threat posed a risk to the Nigerian economy as it would lead to decreased oil production.
A statement by the Niger Delta Avengers on Friday had said, “This outing will be brutish, brutal and bloody, as we shall crush everything we meet on our path to completely cut every pipe that takes oil out from our region.
“We can assure you that every oil installation in our region will feel the wrath of the Niger Delta Avengers.”
The group also denied any affiliation with the militant group, Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, accusing its operators of being used by the Federal Government to scuttle efforts by leaders in the region to force the government to develop the region.
However, responding to an inquiry from one of our correspondents about how attacks on oil installations would affect the activities of oil companies, the General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Chevron Nigeria Limited, Mr. Esimaje Brikinn, in a text message, said, “No comment.”
The spokesperson for Shell Nigeria, Mr. Precious Okolobo, also declined to comment on the development and told Saturday PUNCH to contact the relevant security agencies.
In the same vein, the General Manager, External Affairs and Communications, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc, Dr. Chioma Nwachuku, declined to comment on the development.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy has said it would not relent in its operations in the Niger Delta region to secure oil installations, lives and property.
The Navy Director of Information, Captain Suleman Dahun, said this on Friday while reacting to the threats made by the militants.
The navy recently began an exercise on October 30 in Bayelsa and Delta states called, ‘Operation Octopus Grip.’
It reportedly deployed troops and at least five gunships in the region.
Dahun said, “In the Niger Delta, we have several operations to secure lives and property, including the most recent Operation Octopus Grip. We are doing this to contain all threats and maintain the peaceful atmosphere in the Niger Delta.
“The navy is constitutionally mandated to ensure maritime security. This is our cardinal responsibility and it includes lives and property in the Niger Delta. Over the years, we have kept this mandate.”
Efforts to also talk to Operation Delta Safe, which is a joint military operation set up to secure oil installations in the region, have yet to be successful as of press time.