Militant group Niger Delta Avengers have called for a referendum on the dissolution of Nigeria, according to ABC News. Niger Delta Avengers comprise of militants that attack oil pipelines to counter pollution and supposed exploitation on that part of the government and international oil companies. President Muhammadu Buhari has not responded to the referendum demand thus far.
Nigerian militants in the Niger Delta feel empowered in wake of the Brexit vote, and they hope to ride the momentum by demanding a referendum in their home country. Buhari, however, is not in the same boat as the Nigerian president is relatively new to the presidency and does not need to cater to certain voting blocs in the near future.
Cameron allowed the Brexit vote to appease conservatives, but the referendum backfired on him, causing him to resign. Moreover, Buhari is not ready to listen to the demands of Niger Delta Avengers anytime soon, as the organization has participated in infrastructure damage amounting to millions of dollars. Moreover, more groups have emerged with diverging demands and agendas, but state leaders are not in a listening mood as extremists continue to destroy pipelines.
Militants may not get their vote anytime soon, but ideas of secession and autonomy gain more traction in Nigeria as instability spirals out of control. Many locals are furious over the rampant pollution at the hands of oil companies, and villagers who live near the Niger Delta do not benefit from Nigeria’s oil wealth. Further, tensions between Christians and Muslims remain high, and Islamist group Boko Haram remains a formidable presence in Nigeria and West Africa.
Buhari has responded with military force against all forms of terrorism, but Buhari has attempted to reform militants involved in acts of violence in the past, and he recently scaled back operations against Niger Delta extremists to achieve some measure of peace. The government has signaled a willingness to commence negotiations with militants, notes Newsweek; however, the likelihood of a resolution remains unlikely.
The central government may dissolve sooner rather than later if authorities fail to instill security and reach peaceful resolutions. Additionally, Nigeria’s economy may not survive if leaders cannot foster a sense of security that would keep investors and oil companies at ease. The state must also address local concerns regarding pollution, and although the government has taken harsh action against militants, this should not stamp out the legitimate voices of activists and residents concerned about the damage done to the environment and local economies.
Recently, Buhari suddenly canceled a trip to an event starting a cleanup operation in the Niger Delta, a move that stalled the peace process.