Nigerian Militants Blow Up US Firm-Owned Oil Pipeline in Niger Delta

Italian energy group Eni SpA which owns Agip in Nigeria yesterday declared a force majeure on some of its crude exports from Nigeria, following an act of sabotage on a pipeline located north of the Brass River field earlier in the week.

This is just as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta [MEND], yesterday destroyed for the umpteenth time in recent weeks an oil installation belonging to US oil giant Chevron.

The attack on Agip's pipeline on Tuesday resulted in oil production losses equivalent to 24,000 barrels per day, translating to about 4,800 barrels per day of Eni's equity in Agip, the company confirmed.

MEND recently shifted its offensive against oil installations located outside Delta State and has in the last four weeks claimed responsibility for attacks on oil facilities including the Afremo oil field.

Last week, the Italian oil giant was said to have shut in production of around 33,000 barrels of oil and two million cubic metres of gas per day following the Bayelsa attack.

In its continuing offensive against oil installations, MEND yesterday destroyed the recently repaired Chevron pipeline linking Alero Creek through Abiteye to the Escravos export terminal in Delta State.

The attack which took place last night at 2000hrs was allegedly carried out by MEND fighters who waited till the completion of repair work on the pipeline before blowing it up for the second time in weeks.

MEND said it will only stop attacks after its leader, Henry Okah who has unconditionally accepted the offer of amnesty from the government, is released from detention and positive discussions are held.

The group disclosed that the attacks may even go on side by side the negotiations.

In a statement, MEND's spokesman, Gbomo Jomo, said they were miffed by the fact that the federal government had shown so much eagerness to resume oil exports inspite of the sufferings of the people who were displaced by the bombings of the Joint Task Force last May.

They said they waited until the work which was done with over 200 soldiers on guard duty was completed before moving in to destroy the pipeline.

MEND expressed gratitude to soldiers guarding the facility for not challenging them while they carried out the action.

Jomo said that for trying to resume oil related activities without caring to resettle the displaced in Delta State, they will while talks on amnesty are ongoing, continue the destruction of oil facilities.

Prior to the renewed attacks on oil facilities in the region, Nigeria was said to have recorded a shut in of over one million barrel per day, bringing the country's output to only a little over 1 million barrels per day.

Recent statistics released by the Department of Petroleum Resources about a fortnight ago, showed that production deferment due to the crisis in the oil-rich region was over 1 million barrels per day.

Statistics indicated that both reserves and daily output are on the decline due to restiveness in the Niger Delta, raising fears that the crisis may deter the country from achieving its set targets of 4 million barrels per day and reserves of 40 billion barrels by 2010.

BBC Monitoring. Copyright BBC.