Nigeria threatens military action over pipeline vandalism


ABUJA�The Nigerian government on Monday said the Niger Delta states must crack down on vandalism of petroleum product pipelines. If police are not able to do the job, the military will step in. The government issued the ultimatum in response to losing more than 600 lives and $40 million to petroleum product pipeline vandalism this year. About 24 cases of vandalism were reportedly recorded just last week.

The government's decision was handed down at the end of a national emergency security meeting, chaired by Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. In attendance were the governors of Abia, Delta, Cross River, Edo, Bayelsa, and Rivers states, all of which have been affected by vandalism. Also attending were the group managing director of the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., the owner of the pipeline network, and the inspector general of police.

Chris Mammah, special assistant to the vice-president on media relations, told reporters at the end of the meeting that the affected states were required to set up independent monitoring teams to crack down on vandalism. The military would be brought in to assist police if the teams failed to stop vandals.

The states were also mandated to embark on "enlightenment" campaigns aimed at educating the public about the adverse effects of pipeline vandalism on the nation's economy. Meanwhile, NNPC was instructed to protect the right-of-way of the pipeline network against possible future vandalism.

Vandals break open petroleum pipelines in desolate areas to steal the products, which they sell to make quick, easy money. Deaths have resulted from accidental sparks leading to explosions, while most of the pipeline's products also leak into the surrounding areas, providing danger of further explosions.

Mammah said the government is seriously looking at the issue due to fears that portrayals of the country as a lawless and disorderly nation would also make it seem unsafe for foreign investment. Attracting foreign investment into Nigeria's economy, battered by decades of military misrule, is a top priority of Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, who took office in May 1999.

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