Nairobi/Abuja – Nigeria’s main militant group on Thursday said it had attacked a Shell pipeline in a warning to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev not to invest in the energy-rich West African nation.
The attack came just hours before Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua unveiled details of an amnesty aimed at ending unrest that has cut Nigeria’s oil production by over 20 per cent since 2006. Medvedev on Wednesday led a delegation to the Nigerian capital Abuja, where gas giant Gazprom signed an agreement with the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that is likely to see Russia invest billions of dollars in gas and oil projects.
Movement for the Emancipation of the Nigerian Delta (MEND) spokesman Jomo Gbomo said that fighters destroyed Shell’s Bille-Krakama pipeline in Rivers State just after midnight on Thursday. “This is the fate that awaits the gas pipelines you plan to invest (in) in Nigeria if justice is not factored in the whole process,” Gbomo said in an emailed statement aimed at Medvedev. “Mr President, the agreements that you have signed in Abuja are worthless.”MEND stepped up its campaign last month and has attacked pipelines and flow stations operated by Shell, Chevron and Agip. Militants operating in the oil-producing Niger Delta say they are fighting for a larger share of the wealth for local residents, who complain the oil industry has ruined their agriculture and fishing livelihoods.
Yar’Adua on Thursday revealed a 60-day amnesty for the militants, offering a presidential pardon, education and training to those who lay down their arms. MEND has yet to comment on the offer, although other groups had previously indicated they may take part in the proposed amnesty. However, analysts say the amnesty will not be enough to bring peace as criminal gangs and corrupt politicians are making vast amounts of money by stealing oil from the region. A previous amnesty failed to end the conflict. The instability is bad news for Gazprom, which is particularly keen to get involved in the Trans-Saharan Pipeline – a project aimed at bringing Nigerian gas to Europe. The attack appears to have been intended to show Russia that if pipelines in a relatively small area of Nigeria cannot be protected, then a project that would see a pipeline run through Nigeria, Niger and Algeria to Europe is doomed to failure.
Medvedev is on an African tour aimed at catching up with China and claiming a slice of Africa’s oil, gas and minerals. On Thursday morning, he arrived in Namibia after visiting Egypt and Nigeria. He is expected to wrap up the trip with a visit to Angola, another major oil exporter.