Things Fall Apart
Nigeria’s Oil Avengers Strike

These aren’t the Avengers we’re used to cheering on in summer blockbusters. In Nigeria, militants calling themselves the “Niger Delta Avengers” are creating a summer spectacle of their own, blowing up oil infrastructure in a campaign so catastrophic that it has already cut the country’s oil output by more than a third—a reduction of one million barrels a day. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The damage has helped tip Africa’s biggest economy toward recession, and has cost Nigeria its position as the continent’s top oil producer—a distinction inherited by Angola. […]

On and off for years, criminal groups in the Niger Delta have extorted and bombed oil companies for profit. Pipelines have also been sawed open by oil thieves, seeking to siphon off their valuable content.

But these Avenger characters aren’t asking for money. They’re just lashing out.

“It is different this time,” said Dolapo Oni, oil and gas analyst for Togo-based Ecobank Transnational Inc. “These guys are not stealing crude. They just bomb the pipelines and they run away. They just want to destroy.”

Things are looking increasingly grim for Nigeria. Vengeful vandalism in the south, Boko Haram’s stubborn fighting in the north, and rampant corruption throughout the country, yield a constellation of threats that are making it even harder for the center to hold.

Nigeria now faces a real dilemma: unless it can stanch the bleeding in the south and stabilize oil revenue to spend on security operations and development programs in the north, the government will be unable to cope with Boko Haram, whose primary target is the same northern Muslim elite—personified by President Buhari, a former general—that the mostly Christian southerners in the Delta hate. Keep in mind that Nigeria’s military, at 162,000 troops,  is very small for a country of more than 180 million people fighting an oil insurgency in the south and an Islamist one in the north.

Even though in February it was looking like the U.S. would deploy dozens of military advisors to help Nigeria with the fight against Boko Haram, such plans have yet to materialize. Looks like Captain America won’t be coming to the rescue any time soon, and Nigeria will have to handle the Avengers on its own.

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