As Goldman famously declared on Sunday night when it boosted its near-term oil prices targets (while cutting its 2017 estimates as a result of what it admits will be a delayed rebalancing of the oil market), the biggest upside risk to oil over the next months remains the threat from unexpected supply disruptions...
... such as the Canada wildfire which has mothballed up to 1.5 million barrels in daily production (and which took a turn for the worse earlier today, when new evacuations threatened the restart of oilsands facilities), but mostly the ongoing attacks shaking up, or rather down, Nigerian production, specifically affecting the region of the Niger River delta.
It is here where we meet a recently unknown group of militants, better known as the "Niger Delta Avengers" who are thought to be behind recent attacks on oil pipelines in the south.
As Bloomberg notes, "the Niger Delta Avengers have certainly been busy, forcing Shell's Forcados terminal to shut in about 250,000 barrels of daily exports; and breaching an offshore Chevron facility in the 160,000 barrels per day Escravos system. In April, ENI had to declare force majeure, letting it stop shipments without breaching contracts -- on exports of its Brass River grade after a pipeline fire.The country's oil production has been severely disrupted by the attacks."
To be sure, Nigeria has had a long history of dealing with militants who use attacks on oil to gain leverage. The previous wave of discontent, which hit a peak in 2009, only came to an end when President Yar'Adua offered amnesty, training programs and monthly cash payments to nearly 30,000 militants, at a yearly cost of about $500 million. Some leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the militant group, got lucrative security contracts. In other words, the "solution" was appeasement, and as Europe knows very well, appeasement never works, and instead invites increasingly greater problems.
As BBC adds, the amnesty program, which provides tens of thousands of former oil militants with a monthly stipend from the government, stemmed the level of violence in the region after its introduction in 2009. But in the latest budget, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari reduced funding for the program by 70%, and has spoken of phasing it out entirely by 2018.
Yes, in Nigeria paying blackmail is part of the state budget.
It gets better: critics accuse Mr Buhari, a Muslim northerner, of unfairly targeting communities in the southern, mainly Christian oil-producing regions, as part of his anti-corruption drive. Mr Buhari's predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, comes from the Niger Delta region.
In other words, the indirect accusation is that the current president of a country whose primary source of revenue is oil exports, has unleashed the current Nigerian oil supply crisis on his own due to his reduced support for the same militant groups which he knew would promptly step in an hold the country's oil production for ransom until they too got paid off.
And this is where the Niger Delta Avengers come into play: the group who, by keeping half a million barrels in oil from the market, have catalyzed not only the latest rally in oil, but now effectively hold the fate of the price of oil in their hands.
But who are the Niger Delta Avengers?
Luckily, the group has its own website called, not surprisingly, Niger Delta Avengers, which while somewhat unoptimized is very social-media friendly and even has a convenient section allowing outside parties to contact the millitants.
Some other notable oddities: the website was created on February 3, 2016 using godaddy as registrar.
The website has its own news blog, where it has posted such stories as "Niger Delta Avengers Zero Chevron Operations", "STOP KILLING NIGER DELTANS IN THE GUISE OF ESCORTING OIL TANKERS", and "KEEP YOUR THREAT TO YOURSELF MR. PRESIDENT; WE SHALL CONTINUE TO DO WHATEVER IS NECESSARY TO PROTECT THE NIGER DELTA INTEREST", all authored by the same person, one Col. Madoch Agbinibo, NDA spokesman.
One interesting post which caught our attention explains Operation Red Economy from February 13, and which lays out the group's genesis, agenda and demands.
We are a group of young Niger Deltans who have support from other parts of Nigeria, namely Northern, Western and Eastern part of the Country.
We have watched with keen interest, the way and manner in which the president Muhammadu Buhari Led APC government runs the affairs of this country, and we not pleased with the way things are going. For instance, the so-called anti-corruption fight is directed towards perceived enemies of the government, and those that are sympathetic to former President Goodluck Jonathan. We wonder why this persecution, despite the peaceful manner Jonathan hand over government to All Progressive Congress APC. When they did not even the win the 2015 election because he was after lives of Nigerians as he saw that the APC is blood tasty.
So far the only two governorship elections that were conducted under this government were and still remain the most controversial elections in the history of this nation.
The 2016 budget that was presented to the national assembly is full of fraud, yet nobody has owned up to the frauds spotted in the budget by Nigerians and the national assembly.
The president has not deem it fit to expose and prosecute those that are behind these frauds and punish them accordingly, because, because he is neck dip in these frauds. What kind of anti-corrupt fight is this?
This is the time Nigerians need to say the truth and stand by it. There must be a revolution to deliver this country from the hands of this wicked administration now. Imagine all the appointees to the president are all his relations eg DSS, Customs, INEC, and so on. We can no longer continue like this. There is a serious and biting hunger in the land. So many persons have lost their jobs under this Buhari led administration, while his wife and children are doing party everyday in Aso Rock Villa.
We cannot continue like this. Most APC leaders and other big men are pretending as if all is well but all is not well with them. Infact, they are dying in silent. Nigerians must speak up against this Military in Democracy government. Things must be done in the right way.
Therefore, we have chosen to start this revolution to free country from these vampires called APC government. We are hereby giving president Buhari two weeks ultimatum to do the following things urgently.
- Immediate implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference. Otherwise, this country will break-up forcefully.
- President Buhari, the DS SSS and Timipre Sylva should apologize to the people of the Niger Delta region and family of Late Chief DSP Alamieyesegha for killing him with intimidation and harassment because of his party affiliation.
- The ownership of oil blocks must reflect 60% for the oil producing people and 40% for the non-oil producing people.
- The only Nigerian Maritime University sited in the most appropriate and befitting place Okerenkoko must start the 2015/2016 academic session immediately.
- The minister of transportation, Mr Rotimi Amechi should apologize to the Ijaws and the entire Niger Delta people for his careless and reckless statement about the siting of the University.
- The Ogoniland and indeed ll oil polluted lands in the Niger Delta must be cleaned up and compensation be paid to all oil producing communities.
- Mr Nnamdi Kanu, the Leader of IPOB must be released unconditionally as the court said.
- The Niger Delta Amnesty programme must be well funded and let it continue to run effectively.
- All APC members that are indicted in any corruption related cases should be made to face trial like the PDP members. Otherwise Buhari should shamefully forget about this nonsense anti-corruption fight.
- All oil multi-nationals and foreign investors should observe this ultimatum, as their business interest in the country must be first target.
- A word is enough for the wise.
In addition to tell the Nigeria government that we mean business at as 10:55pm on Saturday the Forcados terminal crude oil export pipeline was blown up by Niger Delta Avengers.
And then there is another follow up post on the site's home page titled "CONGRATS TO ALL STRIKE TEAM OF THE NIGER DELTA AVENGERS" which goes on to list the group's successful accomplishments to date (key excerpts ) and also touches on what the NDA supposedly wants.
From the high command of the Niger Delta Avengers we congratulating all strike teams of the Avengers without taking any innocent life or that of the Nigeria military we were able to shut down 50% of crude production.
We have been seeing a lot on the media about us. Some are asking, “Who are you avenging?” some calling us empty heads, ex-agitators have been condemning us on daily basis. Our criticizer from other part of the country, we don’t have any thing to tell you because you clearly don’t know how life is in the region.
To our criticizers from the region we want you to know you are all cowards and afraid to stand for your people.
Our agitation is more civilize than yours the Niger Delta Avengers is more concern with people of Niger Delta unlike you (ex-agitations) that were into kidnapping, killing of Nigeria soldiers, sea pirates, vessel and tanker hijacking. But we were able to carry out all our operations without killing a fly. We have sophisticated arms far better than what you use to have during your kidnapping days.
We are young, educated, well traveled and most of us were educated in east Europe but don’t worry when we achieved our goal (sovereign state of Niger Delta) then you people will be proud of us. In as much as we respect you as our elder brothers (ex-agitators) please don’t dare to stand on our way because if you do we will crash you.
To the Nigeria military the Niger Delta avengers is among you. And we know all your plans so we will always ten steps ahead of you. In our meeting comprising all heads of the strike teams, which was held in Bayelsa. The Niger Delta Avengers high Command comes to the conclusion that, if the military harass or invade any community in the region then you (Nigeria military) will get a feel of the Avengers.
If you smart or intelligent enough you will look inward not outside. We know when you are vulnerable but not take our calmness for granted.
From our analysis above, 90% oil blocs are allocated to individuals from northern Nigeria and some confused elements from the region are calling the Niger Delta Avengers names, some are calling us criminals.... To owners and operators of these oil blocs in our region the Niger Delta Avengers is giving you two weeks ultimatum to shut down your operations and evacuates your staff. If at the end of the ultimatum and you still operating. We will blow up all the locations. It will be bloody. So just shut down your operations and leave.
Once again on behalf of all the commanders of the avengers strike teams we congratulate our loyal and gallant soldiers who put human life before their targets. On behalf of the Niger Delta people we said congratulation as we have cripple the Nigeria economy by 50% by the grace of God we will make it 100% if our demands are not met soon.
By October 2016 we will display our Currency, Flag, Passport, our ruling Council and our Territory to the world.
To the United Nations, we are not asking for much but to free the people of the Niger Delta from environmental pollution, slavery, and oppression. We want a country that will turn the creeks of the Niger delta to a tourism heaven, a country that will achieve its full potentials, a country that will make health care system accessible by everyone. With Niger delta still under the country Nigeria we can’t make it possible. So we are calling on the Ban Ki-Moon Secretary General United Nations and all Heads of the government of the five Permanent Security Council members to come to the aid of Niger delta people. We are calling on world leaders to come to the Niger delta to see the atrocities committed by the Nigeria government
Long Live the Niger delta Avengers.
Long Live the Niger Delta.
Col. Mudoch Agbinibo
So another group of "young, east-Europe educated idealists", who have a "patriotic agenda" and are intent on achieving an independent state in southeast Nigeria. To do this they will blow up every piece of oil infrastructure in their way.
At least, unlike Hans Gruber, they don't also demand the release of their ideological "revolutionary brothers and sisters" rotting away in some imperialist prison.
Meanwhile, the price of oil will remain high and keep rising as long as the NDA's campaign continues oddly unopposed.
What is odd is how unexpectedly this group of African "freedom fighters" emerged, and created a website no less just as oil hit a 13 year low. One almost wonders if there was not certain western financial and military backing behind said group of "freedom fighters", perhaps backing that has an interest in the price of oil going higher, and thus any sunk costs to fund and arm the NDA would be promptly recovered once oil jumped... as it has in the past week as a result of none other than Goldman highlighting Nigeria's oil supply problems and making it the basis for their "bullish" (if only in the shorter-term) oil call.
Of course, that would never happen: after all, when in the history of the US has the country, either directly through the government or indirectly through the private sector, armed and funded offshore "rebel" groups to achieve specific national interest goals...