Timeline of recent events in Niger Delta

Thousands of people are displaced in the Niger Delta region after the military stormed the area in pursuit of militants it said had attacked government troops. The move comes two months after President Umaru Yar'Adua said he would consider amnesty for some militants. Yar'Adua and his predecessors have battled for years with the local groups – perpetrators of regular violent attacks and kidnappings – who say they are fighting for the people's rights in the oil-rich region.

IRIN highlights some of the events leading up to the latest clashes.

May 2009

Clashes between government forces (the Joint Task Force) and militants break out on 13 May. Both sides deny initiating the attack.

JTF launches its biggest onslaught against militants since 2006. Rebel leader Tom Polo’s compound is destroyed but he is still said to be at large.

On 14 May militants take at least 15 hostages; the JTF eventually frees most of them.

On 25 May Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) says it has destroyed several oil pipelines which oil company Chevron confirms has cut its production by 100,000 barrels per day.

March 2009

President Umaru Yar’Adua declares the government will consider a conditional amnesty for militants in the Niger Delta.

February 2009

Joint Task Force destroys prominent ‘Daroama militants’ camp in Bayelsa state.

President Yar’Adua announces the creation of a new government committee to study recommendations of previous Technical Committee set up in September 2008 to recommend solutions for reducing violence in region.

Militants attack a civilian helicopter for first time.

January 2009

Militants call off unilateral ceasefire announced in September 2008, declaring “Hurricane Obama” step-up in attacks, linked to a government offensive on camp of rebel member Ateke Tom.

Civil society group coalition criticizes President Yar’Adua’s silence on Technical Committee recommendations for reducing violence.

December 2008

Government forces arrest militant leader Sabomabo Jackrich.

Government Technical Committee issues recommendations to reduce violence in Niger Delta including appointing a mediator to facilitate discussions between government and militants; granting amnesty to some militant leaders; launching a disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation campaign; and channeling 25 percent of the country’s oil revenue to the Delta, up from the current 13 percent.

November 2008

Military launches crackdown on oil thieves.

September 2008

Militants declare an “oil war” in which they step up attacks on oil facilities and security forces, sparking the heaviest clashes in the region in two years. On 13 September government security forces allegedly raze three villages in Rivers state in search of MEND member Farah Dagogo. Dozens die in attacks, according to International Crisis Group.

Militants take 27 oil workers hostage, later releasing all but two.

On 10 September 2008, Nigerian cabinet appoints a new minister for the region, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Ufot Ekaette. Government forms Technical Committee to recommend ways to reduce violence in the Delta.

At end of month militants declare unilateral ceasefire.

June 2008

President Yar’Adua orders a military crackdown in the Niger Delta following persistent rebel attacks.

February 2008

Prominent militant, Henry Okah, arrested in Angola and is extradited to Nigeria.

November 2007

Militants step up oil pipeline attacks.

August 2007

Government troops continue sweep of restive main oil city of Port Harcourt.

May 2007

President Yar’Adua assumes office. Four American oil workers held by militants for weeks released.

December 2006

Criminal gangs release more than 20 hostages seized some 20 days prior.

December 2006

Three Italian oil workers seized.

November 2006

Soldiers and militants clash in Bayelsa state and at least two militants die in the shootout.

October 2006 to June 2007

Kidnapping of oil workers intensifies.

October 2006

Hundreds of villagers occupy four oil pumping stations in the Niger Delta saying oil company Shell reneged on a promise to give supply contracts to the host community.

October 2006

Army confirmed the killing of nine soldiers in a clash with militants.

September 2006

Soldiers invade Okochiri village, near the main oil city of Port Harcourt, said to be a hideout for suspected kidnappers of oil workers.

September 2006

Oil unions launch a three-day strike over deteriorating security situation in the Niger Delta.

May 2006

A Nigerian court orders oil company Shell Petroleum Development Corporation to pay $1.5 billion in damages to a host community in the Niger Delta for years of environmental pollution. Shell files an appeal and refuses to accept the judgement.

April 2006

President Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurates a forum of Delta activists, elders, officials and youth leaders in bid to end the crisis.

February 2006

The first high-profile seizure of oil workers occurs. Militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a group representing numerous militant factions, abduct nine expatriate oil workers.