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185,000 barrels shut in as militants hit oil facility

    Friday, June 19, 2009
    From Madu Onuorah (Abuja), Kelvin Ebiri, RoseAnn Chikereuba (Port Harcourt), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Inem Akpan-Nsoh, Ayoyinka Olagoke (Uyo) and Sulaimon Salau (Lagos)

ANOTHER severe blow has been dealt the Nigerian oil sector by militants in the Niger Delta.

In continuation of their sabotage of the operations of oil firms in the region, the armed men on Wednesday night destroyed a trunk line owned by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Bayelsa State. The incident led to the immediate loss of 185,000 barrels per day from the Trans Ramos Pipeline at Aghoro-2 community in Bayelsa State.

The management of Shell, which confirmed the sabotage yesterday, said production was immediately stopped at the facility for a joint investigative team to assess the level of damage.

Although Shell did not disclose the quantum of production shut in, it was learnt that the facility has the capacity to produce 185,000 bpd.

In a statement yesterday, Shell’s spokesman, Precious Okolobo, said: “SPDC joint venture can confirm that the Trans Ramos Pipeline at Aghoro-2 community in Bayelsa State was attacked last night (June 17).

“Some oil production has been shut in to avoid potential environment impact. The relevant government agencies have been informed and a joint investigation visit is planned.”

Meanwhile, Chevron Nigeria Limited is yet to resume production at the 100,000 bpd capacity Alero Creek, Otunana, Abiteye flow-stations, Makaraba and Dibi in Delta State, which the militants attacked twice last week.

The Joint Task Force (JTF) described the first incident as a fire outbreak, adding that it foiled the second. But the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which claimed responsibility for the attacks, alleged that they were successful.

Due to the recurring attacks, Nigeria last month lost its number one position on the African oil production chart to Angola. Nigeria’s output dropped to an estimated 1.740 million barrels per day.

Meanwhile, a special session of the National Council of State will meet Thursday next week to deliberate on the details of the amnesty being offered militants by the Federal Government.

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua will the same day proclaim and release to Nigerians the terms of the amnesty.

These were the outcome of the special meeting on the Niger Delta presided over by President Yar’Adua at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.

The Council is the nation’s highest advisory body comprising the President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice of the Federation, Governors of the 36 states of the federation, former presidents and heads of state and former chief justices of the federation.

After the meeting, Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, told journalists that “the President met with the stakeholders to discuss the issue of amnesty to militants in the Niger Delta. In attendance were the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Governors of Ondo, (Olusegun Mimiko), (Bayelsa) Timipre Sylva, (Delta), Emmanuel Uduaghan, (Rivers), Rotimi Amaechi and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Service Chiefs, Minister of Defence and the Minister of Interior, who is the chairman of the (Presidential Committee on Amnesty and Disarmament).

“After deliberations, it was decided that the President will hold meeting with the Council of State Thursday next week after which the proclamation of the amnesty will be announced the same day. The meeting started at 2.30 p.m. and lasted for almost three and half hours. The input of the governors, service chiefs, ministers were very revealing. The President benefited from the experience of the some of the governors in the Niger Delta.”

Asked the form the amnesty proclamation would take, Mr. Adeniyi said: “I think there is going to be an address by the President and then there will be a legal document in which the President will sign.”

MEND, in a statement yesterday, said its fighters carried out the sabotage, describing it as part of the renewed struggle tagged Hurricane Piper Alpha.

“At about 20:30 hrs (2030 GMT) on Wednesday, June 17, 2009, fighters from MEND in furtherance of Hurricane Piper Alpha (our campaign to cripple the entire oil and gas export of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), destroyed with high explosives a major crude oil trunk line in Bayelsa State belonging to Shell,” its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, said.

The group said the attack was an expression of its displeasure with the manner the Federal Government had reacted to the extra-judicial killing of two brothers by the Nigerian troops that was captured on tape. “This attack is dedicated to the brothers,” Gbomo added.

He urged “Shell should take a cue from Chevron and vacate the Niger Delta region to avoid collateral damage to its investment and death to staff. We do not intend to waste time taking hostages because hurricanes are no respecters of anyone.”

MEND said the affected trunk line is located around Agge / Odimodi area of Bayelsa State.

Gbomo claimed that the line supplies crude to the Forcados export terminal and takes feed from the Tunu, Opukusu and Ugbotubu flowstations.

Okolobo told The Guardian yesterday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, that the company planned to conduct a flight view of the area to examine the extent of damage on the facility.

The JTF spokesperson, Col. Rabe Abubakar, said the command had not received any report from Shell on the attack. He accused MEND of craving for cheap popularity, which he said, was criminal.

Abubakar said: “JTF is not competing with anybody or group. “We are only here to carry out our assignment for the protection of all, including MEND. The general public is once again reminded that the activities of this group is unpatriotic, unholy and deserves to be condemned by all. However, the JTF would continue to monitor their activities and situation closely.”

In Akwa Ibom State, the police have foiled an attempt by militants to hijack bullet-proof gunboats donated by the state government to the command in Oron on Wednesday night.

The six gunboats were launched by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, in the state last Saturday.

The state Police Commissioner, Walter Rugbere, who confirmed the incident, said the police stopped the militants from seizing any of the boats.

He also denied the death of any of his men in the incident, saying he was at the scene.

The state government yesterday said the recent attacks orchestrated by few disgruntled elements were aimed at casting aspersions on the government.

The Commissioner for Information and Social Re-orientation, Mr. Aniekan Umanah in a statement titled “The truth must be told,” said: “The Akwa Ibom State government has not rested on its oars in its desire to rid our society of these vices. This is evident in the enactment of the anti-kidnapping law and the support given to the anti-kidnapping squad of the State Police Command, the setting up and re-enforcing the operations of the state joint security task force code-named Operation Aduma, among other strategic security measures.”

To Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the Federal Government’s amnesty offer to militants would accelerate the development of the Niger Delta.

Lokpobiri, who is the chairman, Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Transport, however decried the slow pace of work in the region. He told The Guardian in Port Harcourt yesterday after the committee’s tour of Federal Government’s projects in the state that militants’ activities disrupted the smooth execution of the projects.

“With the current amnesty deal, I believe that both parties will go home satisfactory and the contractors will henceforth work in more stable environment and that will accelerate the pace of road construction in the region,” he said.

Former Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and one-time Military Administrator of Kaduna State, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), has said no amount of appeasement and extension of amnesty by the government to the militants would bring peace to the zone.

He said the failure of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to use full military action to rout out the criminals in the region was responsible for the escalation of the crisis.

Ali spoke in Kaduna yesterday on the heightening tension in Niger Delta and the government’s decision to offer amnesty to militants to end the violence. He argued that “you cannot on one hand grant amnesty to criminals as the case is today, and turn round to forge a course to get them to conform to the laws of the land.

“It means this government is not sincere in resolving the issues in Niger Delta. I have said it several times that in Niger Delta, we must separate the common criminals from the genuine agitators of environmental degradation in the area.”

Ali was one of the three-man panel that tried and sentenced the environmental activist and writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogonis to death under the regime of the late head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha.

Also, Senator Bode Olajumoke has appealed to the government to seek political to the Niger Delta conflict, arguing that military action would not produce any meaningful answer.

Olajumoke, who is chairman, Senate Committee on the Nigerian Navy, spoke yesterday in Port Harcourt when he led members of his committee to visit NNS Pathfinder base in Rumuolumeni.

The senator, who regretted the loss of innocent lives during the military invasion of Ijaw communities in Delta State, said that it was better to dialogue than go to war.

He described the decision of the government to dialogue with militants in the region as a welcome development, adding that it would translate and engender lasting peace in the area.

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