So the spiral of violence in Nigeria continues. Although six hostages being held by militant youths in the Delta region of Nigeria have been released, a further three are still being held. Moreover the group holding the hostages – the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) – said that the remaining captives would be held until the group’s demands were met and threatened to step up attacks against the oil industry. MEND also demanded that Shell comply with a recent Nigerian court order and pay $1.5bn (£858m) in compensation for pollution in the Ijaw region.

So we see the twin strategies being employed by communities in the Delta – that of direct action and hostage taking – merging with their legal action. If Shell refuses to pay the court, as it has pledged to do, more attacks seem inevitable. Meanwhile those on the ground in the Delta say tensions are naturally high and everyone is worried that if the government sanctions heavy handed reprisals against MEND, it will be the next step down the slippery slope to civil war.

Once again in its history, Africa’s most populous nation is in danger of ripping itself apart. And once again the root of its problems is oil.