“Declaration of war” in Niger Delta

More Nigerian government troops are being mobilized to the Niger Delta region, in preparation for military action against the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), after a militant attack on Royal Dutch Shell’s Bonga oil field forced the company to halt production June 19. In a statement, President Umaru Yar’Adua said that the mobilization “does not amount to a declaration of war in the region but that the offensive by the military will be against criminality and criminals who take advantage of the situation in the Niger Delta to perpetrate criminality.” (Nigerian Tribune, June 21) He appears to be indicating that the MEND are criminals, no?

Bonga is an offshore field, centered around a giant platform some 75 miles out to sea, which the MEND militants attacked on speedboats. Unsuccessful in efforts to blow up the platform’s control room, they did briefly abduct an American workers on the rig. The Bonga field produces 225,000 barrels a day. Ongoing attacks have already cut Shell’s production in Nigeria by 400,000 barrels a day. Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, exports over a million barrels a day to the US alone, according to Energy Department statistics. (NYT, June 20)

MEND responded to the troop mobilization by blowing up a Chevron oil pipeline at Escravos, forcing that company to halt production at nearby fields as well June 21. In a statement e-mailed to journalists, the group said: “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta wishes to commend these patriotic youths who we are now empowering with more powerful explosives and new techniques to destroy additional pipelines inside Delta state.” It called the troop mobilization “a declaration of war.” (Afrik.com, June 21)

See our last post on Nigeria.