Nigeria’s most prominent militant group warned Chinese oil firms not to invest in the impoverished Niger Delta until peace is achieved in the region.
Nigeria is talking with China about selling large stakes in some of its biggest oil blocks, according to a leaked document, in what executives say may be a bid to strengthen its hand with existing Western oil partners.
Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC, China’s no. 3 oil and gas producer and an offshore specialist, is bidding for 6 billion barrels of Nigerian oil, equivalent to one sixth of the country’s proven reserves, according to the Financial Times.
“The Chinese should be careful about investments until there is justice in that region,” a spokesperson for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) told Reuters.
“We can guarantee that if the government of Nigeria fails to address the root issues, the Chinese will regret they were negotiating with the wrong people.”
MEND, responsible for attacks that have wrought havoc to Africa’s biggest energy industry for the last three years, has imposed a three-month ceasefire in the Niger Delta to allow for peace talks with the government.
But Abuja has refused to hold formal talks with MEND, offering instead an unconditional pardon to gunmen who surrender their weapons by Oct. 4.
President Umaru Yar’Adua’s amnesty programme is one of the most serious attempts yet to stem unrest which has prevented Nigeria from pumping much above two thirds of its oil capacity, costing it billions of dollars a year in last revenue.
MEND commanders want the government to first address a series of demands including a partial military withdrawal before accepting clemency.
Militants say they are fighting for a fairer share of the Niger Delta’s oil wealth and want greater development in a region where decades of neglect have left most people living on less than $2 a day.
MEND said it didn’t believe new Chinese investors would improve community relations with foreign oil companies.
“The Chinese are worse than locusts ravaging a farmland,” the group said. “They will not be any better than the existing companies.”
Pic: MEND members