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Bloomberg: Nigerian Militants Intensify Campaign to Cripple Oil Industry

By Karl Maier

(Bloomberg) — Nigerian militants are stepping up attacks to cripple Africa’s biggest oil industry through a series of clashes with the military and raids on contractors and boats working for companies such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, said its fighters killed at least 17 government soldiers yesterday. Eni SpA, Italy’s largest oil and gas company, said a convoy of its supply boats was fired on the same day and one contract worker died.

Attacks have forced Shell’s venture, Nigeria’s top producer, to shut down at least 495,000 barrels of oil a day in output. With the Forcados export terminal closed since February, MEND may try to strike Bonny island, the U.S. Consulate in Lagos said yesterday. Shell operates an oil export terminal and has a stake in a liquefied natural gas project on Bonny.

“The Nigerian government is in denial, and to restore them to their senses, we have resolved to wipe out the entire crude oil export capacity in one swipe,” MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said today in an e-mailed response to questions. “This will hopefully be achieved before the end of this year.”

Nigeria is the fifth-biggest supplier of crude to the U.S., according to the Department of Energy, and No. 6 producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, pumping 2.21 million barrels a day last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Shell normally pumps about half of Nigeria’s output.

“They appear to be building up for a strategic target such as Bonny to shut in more production,” said Thomas Pearmain, an energy analyst at Global Insight, a consultant and forecasting company. “The Nigerian government may be forced to call in the U.S. Navy to ensure the supply to Atlantic basin.”

Crisis Meeting

President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government ordered senior army officials to the capital, Abuja, for crisis talks on the spreading violence, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

“I am not unsure whether the U.S. Navy would want to be involved in anything close to onshore,” Pearmain said. “It may just inflame tensions.”

This year, as many as 50 expatriate oil workers in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, have been taken hostage and released unharmed.

Seven foreign oil workers, including four Britons, were abducted on Oct. 3 and two Nigerian security guards were killed in an attack by unidentified assailants on a residential compound used by Exxon Mobil Corp. contractors in Nigeria, government and company officials said.

MEND says it has sent 500 fighters into Rivers state to protect villages against government military reprisals for an Oct. 2 raid on a Shell boat convoy in which 25 contract workers were abducted but later released. MEND says it had nothing to do with that raid.

`Reprisals’

“Our involvement is based on a perceived threat of reprisals by the Nigerian military against communities in the vicinity of Monday’s attack,” Gbomo said. “The fighters will be withdrawn when this threat ceases to exist.”

MEND claimed to have killed nine government soldiers yesterday in a 1 1/2 hour battle against nine military patrol boats and a helicopter and another eight on a houseboat near a Shell pumping station at Ekulama in Rivers state.

“We have received reports of an attack, but we have no comment because we have not established details,” Shell spokeswoman Eurwen Thomas said today in a telephone interview from London. “Production is not affected.”

The attack on the Eni boat convoy was carried out by MEND fighters, Gbomo said.

Passengers on the boats included 24 Nigerian contract workers, 11 military personnel acting as security and 13 crew, Eni said. The passenger was killed when the assailants sought to disable the motor on one of the boats, Eni said.

Eni Attacked

The seven-boat convoy was on its way to the company’s facilities in Brass when it was attacked by armed men in five other boats around 2 p.m. yesterday, Rome-based Eni said in a statement on its Web site.

The U.K. and U.S. governments yesterday issued warnings to their citizens not to travel in the Niger delta region.

MEND and the Joint Revolutionary Council group, which claimed responsibility for the Oct. 2 raid on a Shell boat convoy, are demanding the release of Diepreye Alamieyesei, a former governor of Bayelsa state who was impeached and arrested on money-laundering charges, and Mujahid Dokubo Asari, a militia leader jailed on treason charges.

The two groups also want Nigeria’s central government to cede control of oil resources to states in the Niger delta.

“Major oil-consuming nations will be well advised to speedily seek alternatives to Nigerian crude oil in order to forestall a sudden shock to the markets resultant from a complete shutdown in Nigeria,” Gbomo said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karl Maier in Khartoum at [email protected]

Last Updated: October 5, 2006 10:54 EDT
 

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1 Comment on “Bloomberg: Nigerian Militants Intensify Campaign to Cripple Oil Industry”

  1. #1 veracity
    on Oct 9th, 2006 at 18:01

    The degenerating violence in the Niger delta is becoming very despicable. MEND is a terrorist group and should be stamped out with the utmost of force before it metamorphosizes into something more something more formidable.

    For now it is just a band of criminals who hope to legitimize their pirate past with the spurious and warped activisim they now purport to be championing.

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