[…] The battle against criminality has intensified under President Muhammadu Buhari. The NSCDC has stepped up its patrols, and the army has launched Operation Crocodile Smile against armed militants, young men who claim they are fighting for a greater share of the wealth generated from their region.
The gunmen have responded with attacks on oil installations, the kidnapping of oil workers and assassinations. The military, so far, has avoided the heavy-handed clampdowns that were its tactics in the past.
It’s been a long struggle for the communities in the delta, who feel they’ve always been exploited by the powers that be. A century ago, it was over the valuable palm oil they produced. Now the fight has turned to crude.
What some call the “120 years’ oil war” began in January 1895, when 1,000 ethnic Brass men in 40 canoes sailed to an outpost of the colonial Royal Niger Company in the delta to protest the control the trading company had over the palm oil trade.
It was a violent confrontation, and they took 60 hostages. In revenge, three weeks later, the British Navy attacked a Brass village and massacred 300 people.
Many still celebrate King Koko, the leader of the Brass people at the time, as the first freedom fighter in an ongoing struggle for a fair distribution of oil wealth.