Nigerian rebels return

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Nigeria’s recent political upheaval, in the face of an absentee president has been worsened by news that factions of disgruntled rebels of the Nigeria’s Niger Delta would disregard the 2009 presidential truce, and resume attacks on oil installations and establishments.

The first attack has been confirmed. On Saturday, Jan. 30, Royal Dutch Shell pipeline was attacked. Shell spokeswoman told reporters that Saturday’s leak on the Trans Ramos oil pipeline was confirmed to have been caused by sabotage. However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last Friday, rebels of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) ended a peace treaty it signed with the federal government in October, 2009.

A statement from MEND published by AP, reads: “it is sufficiently clear that the government of Nigeria has no intentions of considering the demands made by this group for the control of the resources and land of the Niger Delta to be reverted to the rightful owners, the people of the Niger Delta. All companies related to the oil industry in the Niger Delta should prepare for an all-out onslaught against their installations and personnel. Nothing will be spared.”

Conversely, there is no concrete evidence whether this recent threat to return to vandalism and crime is from the whole of MEND – or just a faction that did not accept the offer of an amnesty from Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua.

Royal Dutch Shell said it was selling certain assets in the Delta region to a local consortium. In a statement, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd said it agreed to transfer its interest in three production licences and related equipment in the Niger Delta to a consortium led by two Nigerian companies. The sale agreement is subject to the approval of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the national oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the statement indicated.

MEND is reported to be ending the truce based on doubts that the currently incapacitated government would restore control of resources to the local Niger Delta people: MEND demands that residents be given a greater share in profits from oil resources and land.

This development would add to the current political and economic woes the country is facing and a fresh blow for authorities amid uncertainty over the health of the country’s president. Before President Yaradua was taken ill, he was able to broker peace gambits; offering thousands of rebels an unconditional amnesty if they laid down arms with promises of cash pay outs, re-training and re-integration into society.

More than 15,000 of them did so as MEND declared a truce.

The anticipated reforms to regulate the country’s oil sector are also among a list of other ambitious government projects stalled by Yar’Adua’s protracted absence. Analysts believe that MENDs decision to lift the ceasefire is a further sign that the uncertainty over the president’s health could threaten derail progress made towards peace.

About 95 percent of Nigeria’s export earnings come from its oil sector. However, rebel attacks saw Nigeria’s crude production slashed by about a million barrels a day and led to Angola overtaking it as Africa’s top oil producer. These rebel atrocities have a great effect on world oil prices.

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