x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Nigeria's 'oil war' increases force

Nigeria's main armed militant group attacks oil pipelines for the sixth time in days, while Shell declares force majeure.

Fighters with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) raise their riffles to celebrate news of a successful operation by their colleagues against the Nigerian army in the Niger Delta.
Fighters with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) raise their riffles to celebrate news of a successful operation by their colleagues against the Nigerian army in the Niger Delta.

Nigeria's main armed militant group said it destroyed a key pipeline run by Royal Dutch Shell in its sixth attack in days and vowed to reduce oil exports to "zero". Shell reacted by declaring force majeure on its exports from the Bonny terminal to release it from contractual delivery obligations as a result of the latest attacks.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), the main group fighting for a greater share of southern Nigeria's oil wealth for local people, said it had destroyed the "major pipeline" in Rivers state yesterday. It said the pipeline was located at Buguma Front in the Asari Toru region and was the latest target of the "oil war" it launched on Sunday and has nicknamed "Hurricane Barbarossa".

"The military and the government of Nigeria, whose unprovoked attack on our position prompted this oil war, are no match for a guerrilla insurgency of this kind," Mend said in a statement Mend promised to "continue to nibble every day at the oil infrastructure in Nigeria until the oil exports reach zero". Oil and gas account for 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation. Production currently veers between 1.8 and two million barrels a day against 2.6 million barrels two years ago.

"We have declared force majeure as a result of the recent attacks on our facilities," Precious Okolobo, a Shell spokesman, said yesterday. He had earlier said he was checking the report of the latest incident, and refused to confirm the impact of the previous five attacks claimed by Mend, saying: "We do not comment on our daily production." Earlier in the week, Shell confirmed the first attack on its Alakiri flow station and a second on the Greater Port Harcourt Swamp Line, both on Monday.

As the week went on, it became progressively more tight-lipped, neither confirming nor denying claims of attacks on its Orubiri flow station, Rumuekpe pipeline and another pipeline at the Elem-Kalabari Cawthorne Channel axis in Rivers state. Mend, which has cut Nigeria's oil output by more than one-quarter since it first emerged in 2006, declared "war" on the oil industry last Sunday, in what it said was a response to an attack by the Nigerian army on its positions.

According to Mend, the majority of the oil wealth of Nigeria, now Africa's second-largest petroleum exporter after recently falling from first place, is enjoyed by the federal government and only a fraction of it trickles down to the locals. It also accuses oil companies of wreaking havoc on the environment. Jomo Gbomo, a spokesman for Mend, claimed today to have grassroots support. "The impoverished and neglected inhabitants of oil-producing communities consider our actions to these structures as good riddance to bad rubbish," he said.