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Nigerian Rebels Sabotage Shell, Agip Oil Pipelines

By Dulue Mbachu

July 8 (Bloomberg) -- The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it sabotaged trunk lines run by Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Eni SpA’s Agip unit in its longest-running series of attacks against Nigeria’s oil industry to date.

The latest raid took place in Bayelsa state at about 2 a.m. local time, Jomo Gbomo, a spokesman for MEND, said today in an e-mailed statement. A pipeline feeding Eni’s Brass terminal was sabotaged at Nembe Creek, while Shell’s Nembe Creek line was damaged in the village of Asawo, Gbomo said.

Shell is investigating reports of “an incident” in the Nembe area, Tony Okonedo, the company’s Nigeria spokesman, said by phone from Lagos today. A pipeline was sabotaged around the Brass terminal, cutting off the equivalent of 24,000 barrels of oil a day, Eni said in a statement on its Web site today.

MEND has intensified attacks against oil installations in the oil-rich Niger River delta since the military began an offensive against its positions in May. The group has taken responsibility for 22 attacks on oil installations and one on a chemical tanker since May 25. MEND says it’s fighting for a greater share of the region’s oil wealth for local communities.

The rebel group rejected an amnesty offer from President Umaru Yar’Adua on June 25, saying the move failed to address key demands. Under the terms of the amnesty, fighters in the Niger River delta have until Oct. 4 to surrender their weapons, renounce violence and accept rehabilitation.

‘Incoherent’ Policy

Most fighters are unlikely to be swayed by the amnesty in the absence of a clear policy by Yar’Adua to deal with grievances in the oil region, Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, Africa analyst at Eurasia Group, said by phone from New York. “By and large the government’s Niger Delta policy has been incoherent and difficult to ascertain.”

Armed attacks in the delta, which accounts for almost all of Nigeria’s oil output, have cut more than 20 percent of the country’s crude exports since 2006. Nigeria is the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports. Attacks reduced output to less than half of capacity of 3 million barrels a day, Petroleum Minister of State Odein Ajumogobia said in May.

“We could see oil production fall further dramatically to about 1 million barrels a day” on the attacks, Spio-Garbrah said.

MEND is seeking the “genuine, unconditional release” of its leader Henry Okah, who faces trial for treason and gun- running, the group has said. It also wants “true federalism,” which would give the delta region control of oil revenue while paying tax to the central government, and restitution for civilian victims of military raids in the area.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dulue Mbachu in Lagos at dmbachu@bloomberg.net]]>


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