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MEND Threatening Attacks on Nigerian Oil Facilities

ABC News is reporting that the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), going by the name of Jomo, has threatened attacks on Nigeria’s oil facilities. In a series of emails sent to ABC News, Jomo stated:

We have the capacity to be as ruthless and as callous as attacks witnessed in Iraq… How can you explain a situation where we account for all Nigerias [sic] wealth and we live without electricity in shacks made of cardboard and straw? How can you explain my people drinking from salty creeks in which they bath and defecate?

For an analysis of the MEND’s grievances and attacks, see my article entitled “A Hard Wound to MEND.” The MEND has received a lot of attention recently for their attacks on Nigeria’s oil facilities. In the past year, the MEND’s attacks have successfully reduced the country’s oil exports by 20-25 percent. The group’s main grievance, as touched upon in Jomo’s address, is that the local population in the Delta region, which is mostly comprised of farmers and fishermen, continue to live in poverty while Nigerian officials and foreign countries, notably the United States, continue to seize the wealth generated by oil revenues.

The threat of continued and more violent attacks on Nigeria’s oil facilities has far-reaching implications for the United States. Nigeria is the United States’ fifth largest supplier of oil and the world’s eighth largest oil exporter. An increase in attacks, coupled with attacks in the Middle East in places like Yemen and Saudi Arabia, could potentially drive US gasoline prices up to $5 or $6 a gallon. However, this threat made by Jomo should not come as a complete shock. In October, the US consulate in Lagos issued a warning to all American citizens to be aware of possible attacks on oil facilities in Nigeria. It’s clear that the United States has acknowledged the situation, but has done little to respond.

There is a possibility, although a slim one, of a temporary objective-based alignment between the MEND and radical Islamic groups. The statement made by Jomo regarding these new attacks highlights the group’s desire to inflict as much damage on Nigeria’s oil facilities as possible. It has long been one of al-Qaeda’s goals to deplete the US economy by attacking its interests in the Middle East, notably its oil interests. From a purely objective standpoint, any success achieved by the MEND in targeting Nigeria’s oil facilities would benefit al-Qaeda and as such, al-Qaeda would have a vested interest in the group’s success. Logically, it would behoove al-Qaeda to provide some semblance of support to the MEND, even if it’s simply vocal support.

It is imperative that the United States take increased notice of this volatile situation in Nigeria. The threat of increased gas prices should be enough to warrant increased attention. If MEND is successful in hurting Nigeria’s oil facilities, the potential outcome could seriously affect the United States while giving our enemies, especially al-Qaeda, a major victory.