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Nigeria: Shell Restarts Bonga Under Naval Cover

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Nigeria: Shell Restarts Bonga Under Naval Cover

Vanguard (Lagos)
 

Hector Igbikiowubo
Lagos

Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell, has restarted oil production on the Bonga Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel under the protection of two Nigerian navy frigates.

The resumption of production indicates that 225,000 barrels per day of the country’s oil production which went offline following the attack by the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has been restored.

Mr. Precious Okolobo, Shell spokesman, confirmed the oil production, but did not say if the field was producing at its full capacity or not.

The Bonga oilfield, shut-in since last week, is located in OPL 212 offshore Nigeria in more than 1,000 metres of water, the Bonga field was Nigeria’s first-ever deepwater oil discovery. The field first commenced production in January 2006, climbing to 200,000 b/d by the end of that year.

The move by the Navy came a day after the MEND announced a unilateral cease-fire.

Vanguard gathered that the naval frigates were deployed on Saturday in waters around the Bonga oilfield, which had been attacked two days earlier by armed members of MEND.

MEND, the most high-profile armed group in the oil-rich Niger Delta, declared a unilateral cease-fire to begin midnight on Tuesday and lasting until “further notice.”

Last week’s attack on the Bonga oilfield sent shock waves through government and oil circles as the facility lies 120 nautical miles from the Nigerian coast and had previously been considered out of the reach of militant groups.

It was further gathered that the two vessels deployed by the Navy on Saturday would only have a dissuasive effect, as they are not sufficiently mobile and no match for the MEND speedboats which are capable of out-maneuvering the frigates.

Following the attack which left three personnel of the company wounded and the Bonga FPSO damaged, President Umaru Yar’Adua ordered the army to fish out those behind the attack and restore normalcy.

In a swift reaction, however, the militants dismissed the directive by the President, noting that it was an empty one, while also taunting the military to meet them in the creeks if they could.

Vanguard investigations revealed that the attack on Bonga had shaken investors’ confidence with dissuasive implications for continued plans for investment offshore.

Following the rising incidence of militant attacks, the oil exploration and production multinational companies began to shift focus from onshore exploration and production to offshore activities.

However, the attack may have forced a rethink in this disposition, with the multinationals now proposing greater community ownership of exploration and production assets in their domain.A rights activist in the Niger Delta who did not want his name in print said e government’s decision to appoint Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari, an Under Secretary of the United Nations, to chair the Niger Delta summit might have sparked the attack.

“The unfortunate thing here is that we have a government that is totally impervious to reason. Otherwise, coming on the heels of mounting criticisms, a government inclined towards the sensitivities of the people ought to have noted the coincidence and the timing of the attack.

“Isn’t that indicative that the characters behind the attacks and the totality of the people of the area do not accept the way and manner the summit has been configured to hold?” he queried.

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