Nigerian troops are hunting for militants who said they killed at least 15 policemen in the oil- rich Niger River delta, a military official said.
“The security forces are working to ensure the perpetrators” are tracked down, Ibrahim Attahiru, an army spokesman in Abuja, the capital, said today by phone.
The attack on April 6 was claimed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main rebel group in the the area. Two insurgents also died in the gunfight, which lasted for more than 40 minutes at a river in the Azuzama area in Southern Ijaw local government region, MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Hague-based Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Chevron Corp. (CVX) of San Ramon, California, Total SA (FP) and Eni SpA (ENI) run joint ventures with state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. that pump most of the country’s oil. Nigeria depends on crude exports for more than 95 percent of foreign income and 80 percent of government revenue, according to the Petroleum Ministry.
The attack comes after MEND said on April 3 it would resume attacks in Africa’s largest oil producing-country after their suspected leader, Henry Okah, was sentenced to 24 years in prison in South Africa on terrorism charges. Okah denies being a leader of the group.
“All oil companies and the public are advised to ignore the false sense of security,” portrayed by the government, Gbomo said yesterday. “We remain resolute in our resumption of hostilities.”
Bonny Light crude, the nation’s main export grade, was little changed today, trading at $107.94 per barrel as of 1:20 p.m. in London, after falling 4.9 percent last week, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“Most former MEND militants remain committed to the government’s amnesty program,” Roddy Barclay, an analyst at Control Risks, a London-based business consulting group, said today in an e-mailed report. Though some of them have turned to violent or organized crime, such as oil theft, they lack leadership and weapons, Barclay said. “As such, a return to regional militancy remains unlikely in the medium term.”
The Nigerian Joint Task Force is on “red alert” in the region following the threat, Defense Ministry spokesman Chris Olukolade said yesterday in a text message in response to questions. “Maritime and air assets have also been mobilized and patrols intensified both on land and waterways.”