Nigeria’s ability to meet its quota at the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is now in doubt as militants in the Niger Delta region have resumed hostility. They attacked an oil pipeline owned by Italian firm ENI and swore to inflict mayhem on South African investments.
Industry watchers are afraid that, if such attacks continue, the country may find it difficult to implement its Budget 2012. Their fears are based on the fact that the country might not be able to meet its production target and, as such, may experience a fall in revenue.
Some youths suspected to be breakaway groups from the ongoing amnesty programme of the federal government and who claimed to be members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) announced an attack on the Agip trunk Saturday evening.
Eni was not immediately available for comment as at press time, but witnesses said there was a fire on the company’s Nembe-Brass pipeline.
The amnesty led thousands of militants to drop arms, join training programmes and collect stipends. Security sources say the remaining gangs in the Niger Delta do not have the capacity to do the damage seen in the past, which at its height cut out more than a third of the OPEC member’s output.
Several false threats purporting to be from MEND have been sent in the past and most of the recent damage caused to Nigeria’s oil infrastructure has been from gangs stealing oil, rather than militant strikes.
“On Saturday, the 4th of February at 1930hrs, fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) attacked and destroyed the Agip (ENI) trunk line at Brass in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria,” the email said. “This relatively insignificant attack is a reminder of our presence in the creeks of the Niger Delta and a sign of things to come.”
The group further alleged that “rather than address serious issues facing the nation and its citizens, Goodluck Jonathan squanders public funds on tribalistic sycophants and thugs calling themselves ex-militants”.
The joint military task force (JTF) operating in the Niger Delta said recent unrest stemmed from criminal gangs who wanted expired amnesty benefits.
“It should be noted that it is not possible to run an inelastic amnesty programme,” Timothy Antigha, spokesman for the JTF in Bayelsa State, said in reaction to the MEND statement. “Unfortunately, people who were never part of the agitation have emerged and want to claim amnesty and its benefits by force ... the JTF advises Niger Deltans to be mindful of people who are out to swindle them by wrongfully appropriating the identity of the erstwhile leadership of MEND to curry sympathy for their selfish and criminal interests.”
Bayelsa, the home state of President Jonathan, is due to hold a governorship election next week.
Jonathan can ill-afford unrest in his home region as he is already struggling to cope with almost daily violence carried out by radical Islamist sect Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
In what it described as “dark days to come”, the militant group threatened to unleash havoc on South African interests in Nigeria including MTN and SACOIL.
The mail continues, “Our silence thus far has been strategic and, at the right time, we will reduce Nigerian oil production to zero and drive off our land thieving oil companies.
“British petroleum is prepared to pay $25 billion compensation for the Gulf of Mexico oil spillage, yet for worse spillages in the Niger Delta; our people are paid with death at the hands of the Nigerian military.
“In the dark days to come, MTN, SACOIL, and other South African investments will pay a heavy price for the interference of Jacob Zuma in the legitimate fight for justice in the Niger Delta by its people,” said the militants.
It also claimed responsibility for an earlier attack on the home of the Niger Delta Affairs minister, Godsday Orubebe, in Ogbobagbene, Burutu local government area of Delta State.