Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force
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The Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force  is one of the largest armed groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria and is composed primarily of members of the region's largest ethnic group, the Ijaw. The group was founded in 2004 in an attempt to gain more control over the region's vast petroleum resources, particularly in Delta State. The NDPVF has frequently demanded a greater share of the oil wealth from both the state and federal government and has occasionally supported independence for the Delta region. Until 2005 the group was spearheaded by their presently incarcerated charismatic leader, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who is viewed by many Delta residents as a folk hero.
Founding and initial conflict
The NDPVF's strongly Ijaw agenda has led to conflict with both the Nigerian state and federal governments, as well as with neighboring ethnic groups, notably long-time rivals the Itsekiri. This rivalry precipitated a number of conflicts in the region, centered primarily around the cities of Warri and subsequently the 'oil capital' of Port Harcourt. The issue of local government ward allocation has proven particularly contentious, as the Ijaw feel that the way in which wards have been allocated ensures that their superior numbers will not be reflected in the number of wards controlled by politicians of Ijaw ethnicity. Control of the city of Warri, the largest metropolitan area in Delta State and therefore a prime source of political patronage, has been an especially fiercely contested prize. This has given birth to heated disputes between the Ijaw, the Itsekiri and the Urhobo about which of the three groups are "truly" indigenous to the Warri region, with the underlying presumption being that the "real" indigenes should have control of the levers of power, regardless of the fact that all three groups enjoy ostensibly equal political rights in their places of residence.
Prior to 2003, the center of regional violence was Warri. However, after the violent convergence of NDPVF with the Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV) led by Ateke Tom (the NDV is also composed primarily of Ijaws), conflict became focused on Port Harcourt and outlying towns. The two groups dwarf a plethora of smaller militias supposedly numbering more than one hundred. All of the groups are constituted mostly by disaffected young men from Warri, Port Harcourt, and their sub-urban areas. Although the smaller groups are autonomous from within, they have formed alliances with and are largely controlled from above by either Asari and his NDPVF or Tom's NDV who provide military support and instruction.
The NDPFV attempted control such resources primarily through oil "bunkering", a process in which a petroleum pipeline is tapped and the petroleum extracted onto a barge. Bunkering is illegal in the eyes of both the Nigerian state and the petroleum corporations, but is justified by the militias on the basis that they are being exploited and have not received adequate profits from the monstrously profitable but ecologically destructive petroleum industry. Bunkered petroleum is usually sold for profit, usually to destinations in West Africa, but also further afield. Bunkering is a fairly common practice in the Delta but in this case the militia groups are the primary 'perpetrators'.
The intense confrontation between the NDPVF and NDV seems to have been brought about by Asari’s political falling out with the NDPVF’s financial supporter Peter Odili, governor of Rivers State following the April 2003 local and state elections. After Asari publicly criticized the election process as fraudulent, the Odili government withdrew its financial support from the NDPVF and began to support Tom’s NDV, effectively launching a paramilitary campaign against the NDPVF.
NDPVF in the Niger Delta conflicts
- Petroleum in Nigeria
- Nigerian Oil Crisis
- Other Separatist Groups - MASSOB
- Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta
- Rivers and Blood: Guns, Oil and Power in Nigeria’s Rivers State (Human Rights Watch, 2005)