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Published: March 28, 2008

Pilgrims Group, which operates security services across the world's most hostile environments, including Nigeria, is warning companies looking to operate or invest in the area that high threats are still present. In the Niger Delta, in particular, the lack of unification between militant groups and changing demands has done little to improve the region's security. The breakdown of negotiations between the Nigerian Federal Government and militant groups in the region in December 2007 prompted threats of further violence, not only in the Niger Delta, but extending to Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna.

Despite the recent breakdown of talks, the Nigerian government continues to make efforts to negotiate with Niger Delta militants and to improve the abilities of its security forces to allow them to offer a credible deterrent against attacks. However, the reality is that companies hoping to operate in the Delta region must consider themselves as at high risk, with a direct threat against their personnel and operations, reports Pilgrims.

Nigeria witnessed its first civilian-to-civilian government transition in April 2007. Despite question marks over the credibility of elections Umaru Yar’Adua was inaugurated as President on 29 May 2007. Prior to the elections he promised that unrest in the Niger Delta region was one of the top issues to be addressed by his government. Nevertheless, more than six months after the elections, the security situation does not appear to have improved.

With ongoing instability in the Middle East, Nigeria’s oil reserves are becoming increasingly attractive to foreign investors as an alternative source of energy. However, companies investing in this part of the world are often accused of giving little back to the local population. This has inspired widespread militant activity in an effort to see a redistribution of this oil wealth.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) remain the most significant militant group operating in the Niger Delta. Made up of a number of smaller disparate groups, they claim to fight against the oppression of those who live in the Delta and against the foreign multinationals that operate in the region. Pilgrims’ Nigeria Analyst, Katerina Fytatzi, highlighted that: “despite the occasional implementation of peace agreements and ceasefires, to date these have not lasted long and the overall threat, particularly against energy companies, remains high. While key grievances of these groups remain unaddressed, violence is likely to continue.”

Tactics used by these groups have included armed raids on heavily guarded facilities, both on and offshore, smaller targeted attacks against accommodation and kidnapping. This has resulted in the forced reduction of production capacity, the evacuation of families and non-essential personnel and, in the case of the Filipino government, the banning of its nationals travelling to the country to work as labourers.

Simon Lynch, Pilgrims’ Senior Intelligence Analyst continued; “A number of security companies who made their names in Iraq are seeking to expand their footprint beyond this region, with many of them hoping to increase their operations in Nigeria. Not all have the high levels of training, skills or experience required to provide vital security measures in this environment. Pilgrims’ permanent presence in Nigeria coupled with our personnel’s many decades of experience operating in the region means our operational and information services departments are well placed to maintain a thorough understanding of current and potential security issues and how these may affect our clients’ operations.”