MEND threatens to block Nigeria's oil waterway channels

Uchenna Izundu
OGJ International Editor

LONDON, May 19 -- The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) plans to block key channels for oil vessels to increase pressure on Nigeria's troubled oil and gas industry.

"We have ordered the blockade of key waterway channels to oil industry vessels both for the export of crude and gas and importation of refined petroleum products," MEND said. "This means vessels now ply such routes at their risk."

Earlier this weekend, it claimed responsibility for blowing up two recently repaired pipelines near Escravos in the Niger Delta as retaliation for military attacks on its camps around Warri. The military launched its operations on May 15 following the hijacking of two oil vessels and assaults upon its soldiers. According to MEND, two hostages were killed during the fighting and it will return the bodies to the Red Cross charity. "The British hostage, Mathew Maguire has been relocated to Delta state and will be a guest of one the camps there," MEND added.

According to Nigerian press reports, there were also explosions at a manifold operated by Shell in the Bayelsa state, which the company is investigating.

MEND accused the military of "indiscriminate use of missiles and bombs on several defenseless Ijaw communities in Delta state," describing this "as the height of cowardice."

Ijaw's National Congress, which represents the region's largest ethnic group, said that the military has killed over 1,000 civilians, which the military has denied.

There have been conflicting reports on how many hostages were rescued last week and the number of civilians affected in the stand off between MEND and Nigerian troops.

MEND is fighting for a greater share of the revenue from oil and gas produced in the Delta and it pledged that for the Nigerian government to declare victory, troops must be able to secure every inch of pipelines and eliminate over 500 camps stretching from Ondo to Akwa Ibom.

The attacks on Nigeria's oil and gas facilities has cut oil production from 2.6 million b/d in January 2006 to about 1.8 million b/d.

Contact Uchenna Izundu at uchennai@pennwell.com.

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