Niger Delta; amnesty ends, first attack!

Attack came shortly after Nigeria’s militant group MEND said it was ending the truce it declared last October.

MEND REBELRoyal Dutch Shell says they have shut three oil flow stations in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region after a pipeline was sabotaged.

A company spokeswoman said Saturday’s leak on the Trans Ramos oil pipeline was confirmed “to have been caused by sabotage”. The leak was later stopped.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack but it came shortly after Nigeria’s militant group Mend said it was ending the truce it declared last October.

Nigeria’s main militant group called off a three-month-old ceasefire in the Niger Delta on Friday and threatened to unleash “an all-out assault” on Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), responsible for years of attacks on oil facilities, said it could no longer trust the government to negotiate demands for greater control of the region’s natural resources.

Mend has demanded that residents be given a greater share in profits from oil resources and land. It warned oil companies to prepare for what it called an all-out onslaught against installations and personnel.

Militants have carried out a series of attacks which have cost Nigeria millions in lost revenue over the years.

The attacks have meant that facilities in the area have been unable to work beyond two-thirds capacity, costing $1bn a month in lost revenue.

Weekend’s resumption of unrest comes as President Umaru Yar’Adua has been out of the country receiving medical treatment for more than two months and there is uncertainty over who is in charge of state affairs.

There have been delays to the promised monthly stipends and retraining programmes and analysts have said many former militants could return to the delta’s creeks and resume attacks if they are not quickly given work and a source of income.

The slow progress in implementing the post-amnesty programme has been made worse by the absence of Yar’Adua, who left Nigeria to receive medical treatment in a hospital in Saudi Arabia more than two months ago.

MEND said “It is sufficiently clear at this point in time the government of Nigeria has no intentions of considering the demands made by this group for the control of the resources and land,” said the group.

“All companies related to the oil industry in the Niger Delta should prepare for an all-out onslaught against their installations and personnel,” it said.

Violence subsided in the Niger Delta since Yar’adua’s amnesty programme last year led to thousands of militants surrendering their weapons in exchange for clemency, a monthly stipend, education and job opportunities.

Ordinary Nigerians quietly believe that since President Yar’Adua was a direct participant and a counterparty in the previously negotiated ceasefire leading to a contract or agreement with MEND, and since President Yar’Adua has failed to abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement or contract, Therefore, MEND is arguably right to end the ceasefire entered with President Yar’Adua in October 2009. And MEND has a valid and legitimate argument, to wit, the absence of President Yar’Adua, the counterparty or other party to the agreement.

The inability and unwillingness and neglect of President Yar’Adua to enforce the terms and tenor of the said agreement, and the complete disappearance of President Yar’Adua, the principal party to that agreement who has not been seen or heard from by MEND, Nigerians and the rest of the world during the preceding 70 days! MEND represent a legitimate grouse and MEND may legitimately reject the comatose agreement with the absentee president!