Co-option is one of the most important levers open source counterinsurgency specialists have. (Think the Awakening or ISCI cells in Helmand.) As such, several key component groups of MEND have been bought out of the system:
Eleven former warlords, who were themselves commanders of various camps of the MEND, spread across Nigeria’s southern oil patch, said in a paid advertisement in the local media that other[s], were using the group’s name to perpetuate their acts.
“We want to confirm that MEND as a structured organization operating in the Niger Delta, no longer exists,” the former militant leaders stated. “We disbanded our operations following the acceptance of the offer of amnesty and institutionalization of the post-amnesty program by the federal government.”
This approach (paying 25,000 at a rate of $235/month/militant) seems to be working, with oil production up to 2.6mbpd (up from ~1m bpd). However, a group calling itself the ‘Niger Delta People’s Liberation Front’ is still conducting attacks:
They urged the government, oil companies and the international community to disregard the recent threat purportedly issued by a spokesman for MEND under the pseudonym Jomo Gbomo, to attack oil targets in the Niger Delta, saying that it came from criminals.
This is probably due to the inequality of the amnesty program. That is, the distribution of funding and jobs to differing leaders and tribes (Ijaw and Itsekiri to name a few). The leaders share a common purpose in keeping the tap of amnesty funding flowing long enough for them to sort that matter out themselves, perhaps violently.
Meanwhile, criminality is still a lucrative business, especially if politicians are renting gangs to targeting the opposition leadership. Indeed, candidate Timi Alaibe has been the target of bombs three times.
The April elections will be contentious at best. This is important for the future of the amnesty program (and therefore MEND’s future), but it is also internationally significant, in that the stability of some 2.6 million barrels per day is also uncertain.