Nigerian parliament urges wider oil delta offensive

Nigeria’s lower house of parliament has passed a resolution urging President Umaru Yar’Adua to extend the biggest military operation for years in the Niger Delta into neighbouring states.
The security forces launched a campaign a week ago to dislodge rebel fighters in Delta state, one of three main states in the oil-producing Niger Delta, bombarding militant camps from the air and sea before sending in hundreds of ground troops.
The army says the offensive is targeting fighters loyal to Government Tompolo, leader of a faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), whose “Camp 5” is seen as a focal point of criminal activity.
Amnesty International has said it believes hundreds of people may have been killed and thousands displaced.
After a heated 90-minute debate the House of Representatives passed a resolution late on Thursday urging Yar’Adua to extend the offensive and strike at militants in neighbouring Bayelsa and Rivers states.
The commander of the joint military taskforce in the Niger Delta, Major-General Sakin-Yaki Bello, has declined to comment on whether the campaign might be widened.
Security experts say such a move would be more likely to provoke retaliatory attacks on the oil industry than the campaign against Tompolo, who appears to have effectively been abandoned by militant factions in other parts of the delta.
Years of insecurity in the vast wetlands region has meant Nigeria’s oil output is dwindling at around half its installed capacity of 3.2 million barrels per day (bpd). But production has been largely unaffected by the latest fighting.