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Oil shut-in rises as militants renew attacks

Posted by From Kelvin Ebiri, RoseAnn Chikereuba (Port Harcourt), Florence Oretade (Abuja), Olukayode Thomas, Yetunde Ebosele, Taiwo Hassan (Lagos) on 2008/09/18 | Views: 1443 |

Oil shut-in rises as militants renew attacks

MILITANTS yesterday continued their offensive, which they re-launched last weekend by attacking more oil facilities in Rivers State.

MILITANTS yesterday continued their offensive, which they re-launched last weekend by attacking more oil facilities in Rivers State.

The latest invasion, which the military authorities have confirmed, affected two flow-stations, believed to be operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and Agip.

The twin attacks occurred as the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Paul Dike, visited military installations in Rivers State to assess the security situation in the state.

As the militants, who claimed they had settled their differences to form a common front against the Nigerian state, were attacking their targets, a World Bank official advised the Federal Government to use oil resources to develop the country, especially the area from which the wealth is generated.

But industry sources said yesterday that the latest wave of attacks was again taking a toll on oil output and exports from the country. It was learnt that oil shut-in since last weekend when the militants renewed their onslaught had risen to 100,000 barrels per day.

As early as February this year, SPDC, Nigeria's biggest oil producer, recorded a production shut-in of about 200,000 barrels per day in its Western base.

Nigeria is gradually losing its position as the world's 6th biggest oil exporter and Africa's largest oil producer to Angola, which after its civil war has become an investors' haven.

Before the escalation of militancy in the Niger Delta, Nigeria produced about 2.6 million oil barrels per day (bpd).

Present crude shut-in is estimated at over one million barrels daily. The latest 100,000 barrels shut-in have raised the figure to about 1.1 million barrels per day.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in alliance with the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF) claimed responsibility for yesterday's sabotage of the two major flow-stations at Orubiri and Rumuekpe in Rivers State.

Details of Dike's visit were sketchy last night but his trip took him to several military formations, including The Pathfinder, a Naval platform.

And before the Rivers State Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, has said that NDVF leader, Mr. Ateke Tom, has not been declared wanted. Okiro said that Ateke Tom is free to appear before the commission to testify, adding that he will not be arrested by the force.

Represented by Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Mr. Henry Njoku, the police boss promised that no harm will befall Ateke Tom if he appears before the panel.

He said: "Ateke Tom is not a wanted person and the police is not after him, neither will he be molested by the police if he appears before the commission to testify."

Ateke Tom has been on the run since the TRC set up by Governor Chibuike Amechi to reconcile aggrieved parties to the crisis in the state began sitting in Port Harcourt.

He was alleged to be responsible for the mayhem in Okrika Local Council and other parts of the state.

His counsel, Mr. Chijuka Esekode, had told the commission that it would be difficult for his client to appear before the commission because of the renewed crisis in the region.

TRC Chairman, Justice Kayode Eso, assured that there would be no arrest or molestation from any group if Ateke Tom appeared before the commission.

Justice Eso later summoned the Director of State Security Services (SSS), Minister of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff and the Attorney-General of the Federation to appear before the commission to testify on the crisis on the state.

The Joint Task Force (JTF) and the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), the umbrella body of armed groups in the Niger Delta, have disagreed over the casualty level from the latest incident.

While the JRC alleged that 18 soldiers at the Orubiri facility were killed during the attack, the JTF said that no Naval personnel was lost.

MEND and the NDVF, according to their spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, attacked and destroyed the Orubiri flow-station operated by SPDC.

MEND has since the declaration of the oil war code named "Hurricane Barbarossa," attacked the Alakiri gas and logistic base of Shell forcing the company to evacuate its workers from some of its facilities in the Niger Delta. Other facilities in Idiama and Bakana belonging to another oil giant have also been attacked by the armed youths.

Gbomo, whose group had declared the offensive following the JTF's aerial and marine attacks on its bases around Elom-Tombia on Saturday, claimed that "all the soldiers on guard were killed and provided more weapons for the campaign. Their houseboat was equally destroyed.

"A major trunk crude oil pipeline we believe may belong to both Agip and Shell has been blown up today, September 17, 2008 at about 0930 hours by our explosives specialists at Rumuekpe in Rivers State ."

JTF Operation Flush Out III spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, who confirmed the attack, said militants in about eight speedboats stormed the Orubiri flow-station and detonated dynamites, bombs and lobbied some pieces of hand grenades on the facility, which went up in flames.

He also corroborated MEND's claim that it attacked a Naval houseboat with about 10 officers on board. According to him, "it is feared that the facility might have caught fire due to intense, sporadic gun shots and massive dynamites and bomb explosion. No Naval component of the JTF was killed in the process."

MEND threatened to extend the attacks to other states in the Niger Delta and urged the people of Rivers State to hold Governor Rotimi Amaechi accountable "for allowing the state to be the first to be visited. He should resign and a state of emergency declared in Rivers State." The group also asked foreigners to leave the region.

"Those who choose unwisely to remain will face the consequences of their decisions and should learn from their colleagues in the United States (US), who evacuated ahead of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. A word is enough for the wise."

When contacted, Shell's spokesperson, Precious Okolobo, said the company was still trying to ascertain the extent of the damage to the Orubiri platform.

JRC comprising of MEND, the Reformed Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force and the Martyrs Brigade, said all the militant groups have reunited.

Meanwhile, former Minister of Petroleum, Prof. Tam David-West, has faulted postulations that oil wealth promotes corruption.

For peace to reign in the area, David-West says that amnesty should be granted to the militants by the Federal Government, adding that no meaningful achievements will be recorded on the war against corruption and bad governance in the region and Nigeria as a whole if the armed youths continued with their campaign.

He spoke at the 7th national seminar on crimes organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) held at the EFCC Training and Research Institute in Karu, Abuja

Speaking on the topic, Fuelling corruption and instability through blood oil, David-West said that oil does not fuel corruption rather the vice had been a phenomenon that oil wealth was only used to entrench.

He said: "Between 1960 and now, we have had 13 heads of state, we have had five constitutions and our states have increased from a few regions to 36 states and a federal capital. Between 1999 and now, we have had five Inspectors-General of Police.

"These changes must be valid and responsible and not at the whims and caprice of some leaders. A country that toys with a fundamental document of the state like the constitution is not stable."

His views were contained in a statement by EFCC spokesman, Mr. Femi Babafemi. EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, Secretary, Emmanuel Akomaye, Police Service Commission boss, Parry Osayande, among others, attended the seminar.

The World Bank Country Director Onno Ruhl in his contribution, said that Nigeria like other countries with oil, must understand that the challenge of natural resources is to turn them into a blessing and not a curse as happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where its resources became the cause of its war because the citizens were neglected by the their leaders.

He said: "A gift is easily spent but an earning is judiciously used. Unfortunately, a country can be cursed by its resources."

He, however, advocated for a transparent usage of the revenue from oil especially in infrastructural and institutional development, warning that if this is not done, instability and in-fighting are inevitable.

Minister of Youth Development, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, fears that the current trend in the Niger Delta can deny the people the development needed in the area.

Represented by the Director, Networks and Social Mobilisation Mr. Dauda S. Kigbu, at a national peace building and conflict resolution workshop in Port Harcourt, Olasunkanmi said that that youths, who are at the forefront of the agitation are often amenable to deceit and manipulation by selfish groups and individuals.

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Comments (23)

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