Nigeria’s most prominent militant group said today it had sabotaged a loading dock for oil tankers in Lagos state, widening an offensive against Africa’s biggest oil sector.
The MEND said its fighters launched an attack on the Atlas Cove Jetty in Lagos state overnight, the first in the area since the group began its latest campaign of violence in late May, Reuters reports.
“The depot and loading tankers moored at the facility are currently on fire,” MEND said in a statement.
It was not immediately possible to independently verify the attack. A police spokesman said authorities were investigating.
MEND has rarely attacked sites outside the Niger Delta, focusing mainly on oil facilities in the Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states in southern Nigeria.
The militant group has claimed a series of attacks against the oil sector following the military’s largest offensive in the Niger Delta for years in late May.
The violence has forced Royal Dutch Shell, US oil company Chevron and Italy’s Agip to shut down around 300 000 barrels per day of production in the last seven weeks.
This has put some upward pressure on global oil prices.
President Umaru Yar’Adua has offered a 60-day amnesty programme to militants and criminals in hopes of restoring peace to the region.
MEND’s suspected leader Henry Okah, on trial for gun-running and treason, has accepted the amnesty programme and is expected to be released early this week, his lawyer yesterday.
Although some militants have said they would lay down their arms if Okah was released, analysts believe violence will not subside.
Oil theft is a lucrative business in the region and politicians would continue to hire armed gangs to secure power in the run-up to 2011 elections, analysts said.