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26 May 2008 12:29
Rebels from Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta said on Monday they had attacked a Royal Dutch Shell pipeline and killed 11 soldiers, but the army denied there had been any attack.
The rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said in an emailed statement that it had sabotaged the Shell pipeline at Awoba flow station in southern Rivers state in the early hours of Monday morning.
“Today’s attack is dedicated to the administration of [President] Umaru Yar’Adua and [Vice-President] Goodluck Jonathan who have failed after one year in office to ensure peace, security and reconciliation in the Niger Delta region,” the Mend statement said.
Nigeria’s army denied there had been an attack while Shell in Nigeria said it was investigating and had no immediate comment.
“The [rebel] claims are mischievous lies deliberately told to gain popularity and mislead the people ... There was no attack on the facility and none of our soldiers were killed,” Sagir Musa, military spokesperson in Rivers state, told Reuters.
The Niger Delta is home to the world’s eighth-biggest oil industry, exporting about 2,1-million barrels per day, but rebels have led a campaign of sabotage since early 2006 to push demand for greater local control over oil revenues.
The unrest has depressed Nigerian output by around a fifth since then, helping to push world oil prices to record highs.
A new government led by Yar’Adua and Jonathan, a native of the delta, took office on May 29 last year promising to address the root causes of the violence and to negotiate with the militants.
But attacks on oil installations and the kidnapping of oil industry workers have continued in the region, with Mend last week accusing the government of “insincerity” in its handling of the situation.
Shell was forced to shut in about 164Â 000 barrels per day of Bonny Light crude production—or about 40% of the Anglo-Dutch major’s equity oil output in Nigeria—late last month due to militant attacks in the delta.
The company has been restoring some of the shut-in production but a force majeure remains in place for Bonny Light exports, meaning it cannot guarantee to meet its contract commitments.
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