The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) militant group, which has conducted at least 28 attacks on oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta since February, announced on 30 August that it had halted hostilities, and was ready for talks with the Government. The ceasefire is reportedly conditional on the Government scaling down military activity in the region. The NDA has hitherto rejected dialogue with the authorities and criticised the Government’s renewal of stipend payments to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Indeed, the Avengers say they want political change not money, and likely view the threat of renewed attacks as leverage to force the Government to meet its demand that Delta communities take control of 70% of their region's oil and gas resources. Meanwhile, the Government has been increasingly pushing the message that it is open to consultations in the Delta since the militants demonstrated how hard they could hit the economy.
Several other emerging militant groups are still active, including an NDA splinter group, the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) and the new Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM). The NDGJM announced its creation on 9 August, stating that the Government and oil companies have been focused on Ijaw interests at the expense of other ethnic groups, particularly those in upland areas of the Niger Delta. It has warned the Government not to engage in dialogue with the NDA and, on the same day that the ceasefire was announced, the group blew up the Ogor-Oteri delivery line in Delta State. The fragmented nature of the current militant campaign and the sporadic emergence of new groups seeking to raise their profile therefore means that the ceasefire is unlikely to improve the security environment in the Delta.
In addition, hardliners within the Government such as Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, remain committed to pursuing a military solution to curb rising militancy in the region. Indeed, reports emerged on 30 August that more military equipment has been moved to the region. Given the NDA’s threat to resume hostilities if security force activities are not scaled down, the ceasefire is unlikely to hold. Even if moderate elements in Abuja, such as Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Deputy Oil Minister Emmanuel Kachikwu, are able to persuade Buhari and Tukur to halt military operations in the region, peace talks are likely to be protracted and make limited progress.
A more fundamental problem is the lack of consensus within Nigeria's regionally divided political establishment over how to respond to the main demand of ethno-nationalist militants for local control of mineral resources. Politicians from oil-producing states tend to support the demand for more money to go to host communities, yet many from non-oil states are opposed, fearing for their own allocations. A compromise on the NDA’s demands are therefore unlikely, while Abuja concurrently lacks the resources to address core issues in the region, especially wealth distribution. Indeed, recent figures from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics show that the country officially entered a recession for the first time since 1991. Long-standing grievances over lack of development in the region, as well as tough socio-economic conditions amid low oil prices, will therefore continue to drive militancy.