09 Feb 2006 12:16:04 GMT
By Tume Ahemba
LAGOS, Feb 9 (Reuters) – A militant Nigerian group which has staged attacks on the oil industry said it believed the government intended to assassinate two jailed leaders of the Ijaw ethnic group and threatened attacks would resume shortly.
The group kidnapped four foreign oil workers for 19 days last month during a campaign of sabotage that crippled a tenth of Nigeria's oil output and pushed world oil prices to a 4-month high. They had demanded the release of the two Ijaw leaders and local control over the delta's oil wealth.
“We believe the Nigerian government intends to poison these individuals and (we) warn of terrible consequences should this plan materialise,” the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in an email sent to Reuters on Thursday.
“We will resume our attacks on oil installations of our choosing with effect from the second week in February,” said MEND, which is also demanding $1.5 billion in pollution compensation to villages from Royal Dutch Shell .
The jailed Ijaw leaders are former governor of Bayelsa state, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and militia leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari.
Alamieyeseigha was charged with money laundering in December and is on trial for corruption. He was taken to hospital at the weekend for an unexplained illness, prosecutors said.
Asari, who faces treason charges, was removed from prison in Abuja on Wednesday and taken to an undisclosed location for his own safety, police said.
The militants waged a six-week campaign of violence against the oil industry which forced Royal Dutch Shell to cut 221,000 barrels a day of output. The company later resumed production at its 115,000 barrels-per-day E.A. oilfield where the abduction took place. The rest is expected back shortly, sources said.
The militants warned Shell not to repair its damaged pipelines and oil platforms and said contractors caught at previously attacked installations would be summarily executed.
“We will attack these companies and facilities with unimaginable ferocity as we have no intention of taking hostages in future attacks,” the group said.
The militants had warned foreigners in January to leave the delta, which pumps most of Nigeria's 2.4 million barrels of oil a day, and said they aimed to cut exports by 30 percent this month.
The hostages — an American, Briton, Bulgarian and Honduran — were released on Jan. 30, but the government has not disclosed the terms of the deal. One militant source said 100 million naira ($770,000) was paid to the kidnappers, but this was denied by the militants themselves.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had denounced the kidnappers as “rascals who are practising the things they watch on television”, but diplomats fear they may represent a new, more dangerous threat to the oil industry.
Oil industry kidnappings and sabotage are frequent in the Niger Delta, a vast, inaccessible region of mangrove swamps and tidal creeks where poor fishing villages are reluctant hosts to a multi-billion dollar industry.
Many in the region feel cheated out of their resources by the oil firms and central government, and some of the militants' demands have been echoed by local politicians.
Industry officials estimate that about 100,000 barrels a day of crude oil is stolen from pipelines in the delta by criminal syndicates working with international smuggling rings. Much of the money is spent on arms, fuelling a cycle of violence.
Reuters: Nigerian oil militants fear leaders will be killed
09 Feb 2006 12:16:04 GMT