Intelligence Brief: The Grand Alliance of the Niger Delta Announces Formation

Posted in Africa | 12-Oct-07

In early September, the Grand Alliance of the Niger Delta (G.A.N.D.) threatened to attack Nigeria's oil and gas industry unless energy companies took action to employ the region's unemployed youth. Although new militant groups in the delta pop up frequently and do not receive significant media attention, G.A.N.D. was greeted with alarm by journalists. It is, however, far from certain whether G.A.N.D. poses any serious threat to Western energy interests and to the Nigerian government. Other than its threatening statements, there may not be substance to the group since new militant groups come and go in the delta and sometimes only exist on paper.

Nevertheless, there is the possibility that G.A.N.D. could evolve into a threatening militant organization. For instance, in 2006 G.A.N.D. may have been involved in a small-scale bombing campaign. Although G.A.N.D. has been described as a "new militant organization," in July 2006 G.A.N.D. -- or a group using the same name -- claimed credit for bombing the homes of a few individuals linked to some Nigerian politicians, for instance the home of the brother-in-law of the then Rivers State Governor Peter Odili.

As part of G.A.N.D.'s recent warning, it publicized the name (possibly an alias) of its leader, General Abiye Toru, and its spokesman, Samuel Ebiye. G.A.N.D. claimed that its operations would be based primarily in Port Harcourt in Rivers State, and it issued a number of demands, which are familiar grievances held by all of the political-militant groups in the delta. Those demands include: the repeal of the Land Use Decree of 1978; the creation of more developmental agencies in the delta; properly funding the existing developmental agencies in the delta; employment of delta indigenes by multinational companies; and the reversal of a government decision to demolish Port Harcourt's waterfront communities, which the government alleges are hotbeds for militant and criminal activity.

The group also claimed to have created a list of more than 250,000 unemployed youth who have the necessary qualifications to work in the energy sector. In the Niger Delta, unemployed youth fill the ranks of the various political-militant and cult/gang groups, so if G.A.N.D. has actual connections to hundreds of youth, it could certainly pose an additional security threat to the Nigerian government.

The bottom line is that despite the concern about G.A.N.D.'s formation, the group may not actually exist in any capacity to threaten government and Western interests. There are hundreds of potentially violent groups operating in the delta, and new ones form and fade frequently depending on a variety of factors, from leadership disputes to propaganda drives. Nevertheless, the sheer level of youth violence occurring in the delta means that any new development such as this should be carefully monitored.

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