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Nigerian president’s adviser on Niger Delta quits

By on December 31, 2010

Nigeria’s presidential adviser on Niger Delta affairs has resigned to run in governorship elections next April, a setback for the government as violence in the oil region has resurfaced in the last month.

President Goodluck Jonathan has accepted the resignation of Timi Alaibe, who will run for governor of Bayelsa State, a presidential spokesman said on Thursday.

Jonathan brokered an amnesty with militants last year which brought more than a year without attacks on oil facilities, and he will hope the resignation of his amnesty adviser does not weaken the government’s control over the fragile region.

A resurgence in violence by militants in the vast wetlands region this month has had a significant impact on Africa’s largest oil and gas industry.

U.S. energy firm Chevron said earlier this month it had suspended production from a major pipeline after a sabotage attack, while fellow oil majors Shell and Exxon have also suffered outages recently.

VULNERABLE PIPELINES

A military task force comprising the army, navy and airforce has carried out a number of successful operations, including arrests of key gang leaders, but it remains difficult to guard against pipeline sabotage attacks.

Onshore oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta, a network of shallow creeks opening into the Gulf of Guinea, is extremely exposed, with thousands of kilometres (miles) of pipeline passing through remote and thickly forested terrain.

Nigeria’s oil and gas output has been held back for years by strikes on pipelines and infrastructure by the militant groups in the Niger Delta who say they are fighting for a fairer share of the oil wealth generated in their backyard.

But the line between militancy and crime is blurred as gang leaders have grown rich on the spoils of kidnapping for ransom and the theft of industrial quantities of oil.

At its peak almost four years ago, violence knocked out more than a quarter of the OPEC member’s crude production.

Reuters.

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