• Promises More Attacks

A facility, said to belong to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), around Buguma, headquarters of Asari-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, was reportedly attacked by suspected militants on Friday.
A group, which identified itself as Joint Revolutionary Council of Niger Delta, has claimed responsibility for the vandalisation of the facility.Explosion Rocks Oil Pipelines

It said more of such acts were underway in the Niger Delta.

The group, in a statement, signed by its spokesman, Bakabio Walter, said its mission was the dissolution of the Nigerian federation.

It commended the Libyan leader, Muamar Ghadafi, for his recent statements calling for the division of Nigeria.

“At about 12:08 a.m., March 19, 2010, units of the Joint Revolutionary Council of Niger Delta attacked and exploded the Abbiama Manifold in Buguma. This is an endorsement for the international call for the dissolution of Nigeria and can easily be verified by calling up anybody in Buguma, Rivers State.

“This is also a follow-up to an earlier attack on Shell’s Akaso Trunkline connecting Cawthorne Channel 1, 2 and 3 to the Bonny Export Terminal on Sunday, March 14.

“We are going to extend the intensity of the attack in the coming days, believing that the oil companies and diplomatic missions in Nigeria have evacuated their foreign nationals. We shall not take responsibility for any of them who get caught in the line of fire,” the statement read in part.

Meanwhile, the SPDC and the Joint Task Force (JTF) have reacted to the said attack.

Spokesman of the JTF, Leutenant-Colonel Timothy Antigha, said it was true that the facility of the Anglo/Dutch oil firm (SPDC) was “tampered with” by some “unscrupulous elements” who tried to steal crude oil.

He noted that the incident had nothing to do with militancy, adding that the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC) of Niger Delta, which claimed responsibility for it, was seeking cheap popularity.

“It was not a bomb at all. We wish you disregard these miscreants who take advantage of everything. The truth is that some oil thieves went to sabotage an oil facility there.

“The matter has been made known to Shell and they are already retrieving their facility. So, how does bomb come in here? They are oil thieves, not militants, so don’t accord them such importance.”

SPDC’s spokesman, Precious Okolobo, said: “We are checking reports of an attack on our pipeline and do not have details.”

It could not be immediately established how much crude oil supplies would be affected by the attack on the pipelines.

The JRC claims to be distinct from the region’s most prominent armed group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) which, early this year, called off a three-month-old truce with the government.

MEND, on Monday, set off two bombs in succession in front of the Government House Annex in Warri, Delta State, aborting peace talks that were to be addressed by top state and federal officials.

At least one person died and several other people were injured in the attack.

Niger Delta militants’ main demand is that local communities should benefit from the region’s oil wealth.

At the peak of the unrest in the restive region, Nigeria’s daily oil output dropped by a third to 1.5 million barrels from 2.6 million barrels.

Oil is Nigeria’s economic mainstay, raking in some 95 per cent of export earnings and accounting for about 85 per cent of budget needs for the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC’s) member.

Port Harcourt is Nigeria’s oil hub and the base for many expatriates working in the Niger Delta.

The resumption of hostilities and threats to step up the offensive piles up pressure on Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, who took over a virtually paralysed government last month following President Umaru Yar’Adua’s protracted illness.

Since Yar’Adua was stricken by a serious heart condition and flown to a Saudi hospital in November 2009, Nigeria has had to deal with mass ethno-religious violence, renewed hostilities in the oil-rich Niger Delta and an attempt by one of its citizens to bring down an American airliner.

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