By Libby George and Anamesere Igboeroteonwu
LONDON/ONITSHA, June 3 (Reuters) – The Niger Delta Avengers militant group claimed three new attacks on the country’s battered oil infrastructure overnight, promising to bring Nigeria’s oil production to “zero”.
The attacks are the latest in a spate of violence in the Delta region that last month cut production to a more than 22-year low and has put more pressure on Nigeria’s stretched finances.
Early on Friday, the group said via its Twitter account it had blown up a pipeline in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state owned by Italy’s ENI, hours after attacks on another ENI pipeline as well as one belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC).
“At about 3:30am our (@NDAvengers) strike team blew up the Brass to Tebidaba Crude oil line in Bayelsa,” the group said on a Twitter feed it uses to claim attacks.
In a press release it said its attacks had brought Nigeria’s oil production to just 800,000 barrels per day (bpd), from 2 million bpd, “without killing a soul”, though they hit infrastructure feeding crude grades already under force majeure.
The ENI pipeline is used to transport Brass River crude. Shell’s Forcados crude oil, where another pipeline was attacked overnight, has been under force majeure since February. The group also hit ENI’s Ogboinbiri-Tebidaba and Clough Creek-Tebidaba pipelines in Bayelsa.
ENI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the SPDC, which operates the Forcados line, said the company was “investigating reports of an attack on its pipeline in the Western Niger Delta”.
Four grades of Nigeria’s oil – Forcados, Brass River, Bonny Light and Qua Iboe – are under force majeure, though exports of the latter two have continued, and sources said ExxonMobil’s production had climbed back near to 300,000 bpd.
Nigeria’s oil minister said on Thursday that production was 1.6 million bpd. Even if the most recent attacks, which also included oil installations belonging to Chevron under its Escravos grade, took out all exports of the oil associated with them, June production would remain near 1.2 million bpd.
Experts said the violence showed little sign of abating, and would keep pressure on the country’s oil production and finances. President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday cancelled what would have been his first visit to the Delta region since taking office.
Elizabeth Donnelly, assistant head of the Africa Programme with Chatham House, said the cancellation was a “missed opportunity” that could hamper efforts to engage with locals.
“The cancellation without explanation will do further harm to the president’s tenuous relationship with the region,” Donnelly said. “To avoid worsening violence and instability in the Niger Delta the president needs to show personal and constructive engagement.”
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