Twitter suspends account of militant group, Niger Delta Avengers

Oscarline Onwuemenyi
05 July 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Micro-blogging website, Twitter, on Monday suspended the account of Niger Delta Avengers, the militant group that has carried out a series of attacks on oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta area in the last few months which pushed the country’s crude production to 30-year lows.

Avengers

Niger Delta Avengers

The Avengers have used a Twitter account, @NDAvengers, as its main form of communication, using it to publicize claims of attacks and as a platform to criticize Nigeria’s government.

The group – which says it wants a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth to be passed on to communities in the impoverished Niger Delta region – posted messages on Sunday saying it had carried out five attacks in the last few days.

“This account has been suspended,” said a statement on the account. “We do not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons,” said a spokesman for the social media site when asked about the reasons for the suspension.

However, the spokesman said the company’s policies included a “specific rule pertaining to violent threats” which states that “you may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism”.

In February, Twitter said it had shut down more than 125,000 terrorism-related accounts since the middle of 2015, most of which were linked to the Islamic State group.

Many tech companies are increasingly taking stronger steps to police controversial content online in the face of threats from legislators to force the companies to report “terrorist activity” on their sites to law enforcement agencies.

Notorious for its indiscriminate destruction of oil and gas installations owned by major oil corporations across the delta states, the Avengers had since inception used Twitter to announce attacks.

The group first used Twitter to claim responsibility for the bombing of Bonny Soku gas export line in Gbarain, Bayelsa State, in February 2016.

Since then, it had claimed responsibility for more than 24 attacks as at July 2.

While announcing attacks, it also demanded a better living condition for the people of the oil-rich region. At some point, the group demanded a sovereign state for the Niger Delta.

Shell, Chevron, Eni, NNPC and other oil companies operating in the region had their facilities attacked in recent months.

In June, Shell said it would keep the Forcados Export Terminal shut until activities returned to normal. Other companies also evacuated their staff.

The Avengers said its activities had seen Nigeria’s oil exports cut by more than half, to about 800,000 barrels per day – vowing to bring it to “zero” in the coming months.

The Nigerian government said it was willing to negotiate with leaders of the group, but its spokesman, Mudoch Agbinibo, announced in June that only a dialogue supervised by foreign countries and corporations would make it engage the government.

Avengers’ followers on Twitter soared from less than 1,000 in April to over 30,000 followers as at July 2.

The Avengers’ website, was, however, still running as at 2:44 p.m. on July 4.

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