Nigeria rebel faction attack oil facility

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A militant faction in Nigeria’s Niger Delta said it had blown up an oil facility operated by Italy’s Agip, its second attack in as many days, and warned foreign oil companies to leave the region.

There was no independent confirmation of the attack.

The Nigerian military confirmed there had been an oil spill in the Niger Delta yesterday but said it has had no contact with militants in the area where the sabotage was said to have taken place.
“I just spoke with my field commanders in Tura Manifold and they denied having any encounter with militants,” a Nigerian military spokesperson said in a statement.
“Though there is a spill on Brass River I cannot confirm what caused the spill.”

The Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), a coalition of militants and community leaders not previously known for such strikes, said in a statement emailed to the media it had blown up Agip’s Tura manifold in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“We demand the immediate vacation of all the international oil companies operating in the Niger Delta territory pending future negotiations (with the authorities),” it said.

The JRC on Wednesday claimed an attack on Royal Dutch Shell’s Kokori flowstation in Delta state. Shell confirmed an explosion had damaged the unmanned facility but said there was no impact on output as it was not producing.

Renewed unrest in the heartland of Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry would be troubling for Nigeria at a time when Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is trying to stabilise government in the absence of the country’s ailing leader.

First attacks in six months

The strikes mark the first significant attack on the energy industry in more than six months, following an amnesty programme led by President Umaru Yar’Adua last year under which thousands of gunmen laid down their weapons.

Yar’Adua returned from a three-month absence for medical treatment in a Saudi hospital just over a week ago but remains too frail to govern. Jonathan, who is from the Niger Delta, has made maintaining peace there one of his top priorities.

Attacks by militants in the Niger Delta between 2006 and 2009 crippled Nigeria’s oil output, preventing the OPEC member from pumping much above two-thirds of its 3 million barrels per day (bpd) installed capacity.

The amnesty programme brought a lull in the violence but militant fighters had complained that Yar’Adua’s absence was stalling the programme, with stipends going unpaid and promises of training not materialising.

The most damaging strikes on Nigeria’s oil industry in recent years were carried out by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the region’s umbrella militant group, whose top field commanders accepted amnesty.

MEND has said it is waiting to see what progress Jonathan will make in getting the amnesty programme back on track before it decides whether or not to reinstate a ceasefire.

The group told Reuters it was not involved in the JRC attack on Shell, leading some security experts to suggest the JRC’s actions were isolated and unsupported, leaving the amnesty programme still able to go ahead.
“It was carried out by a splinter group, looking for further recognition. It is to be expected that not all groups will work for peace,” said a security expert who wished not to be named.
“The security forces need to deal with these renegades in order to allow time for peace and development in the Niger Delta,” he added.

Source: www.af.reuters.com