The Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND has threatened to resume attacks in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region, a week after its leader, Henry Okah, was imprisoned in South Africa.

MEND’s spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo said today in an e-mailed statement that the group will from 5 April (this Friday) start to carry out “a plague of attacks” in the oil-bearing Niger Delta region in southern Nigeria.

“The attacks will be sustained until an unreserved apology is offered to MEND and the Nigerian government shows their willingness to dialogue,” the statement added.

Attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta by militant groups including MEND cut more than 28 per cent of Nigeria’s oil output between 2006 and 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The violence declined after thousands of militants accepted a government amnesty offer in 2009 and disarmed – a development which saw Nigeria’s oil output rising to 2.4m barrels per day, against the violence-ridden period during which the output plummeted to as low as 900,000 bpd.

In recent months, oil production is being buffeted by massive theft, a development that has made Italian oil giant ENI announce a shut down of a facility in Bayelsa state. Shell has also announced a closure of its 150,000 a day NEMBE Creek pipeline, after thieves punctured the trunk at 22 points.

A South African court, last Tuesday, sentenced Okah to 24 years in jail, after he was found guilty of 13 counts of terrorism, including a bombing that killed 12 people in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on 1 October, 2010.

He was also found guilty over two explosions in March 2010 in the southern Nigerian city of Warri, a major hub in the oil-rich region.

“Effectively, the accused Okah is therefore sentenced to 24 years imprisonment,” said Judge Neels Claassen, who delivered the verdict.

Henry Okah: Jailed 24 years

Henry Okah: Jailed 24 years

Okah’s sentence included 12 years each for the Warri and Abuja attacks; and 10 years for being a threat to South Africa. The two terms will run concurrently.

The South African prosecutors said Okah showed little remorse during the trial, and that his intentions in the bombings were to “obtain maximum casualties.”

The armed group, MEND, which is fighting for a greater share of the Niger Delta’s oil wealth, had then claimed responsibility for the attack that marred Nigeria’s 50th Independence anniversary.

But Okah, 46, who has permanent residency in South Africa, denied the charges, claiming they were politically motivated.

Okah has had several brushes with the law. Once tagged, as ‘an international gun-runner and a major illegal oil bunkerer in the Niger Delta’, Okah, in September 2007, was arrested for arms and explosives trafficking in Angola and later extradited to Nigeria.