Port Harcourt, Nigeria | – Nigeria’s Niger Delta militants have bombed the state-owned Trans Forcados oil pipeline, a community leader said Wednesday, just hours after President Muhammadu Buhari held talks with leaders from the oil-producing Niger Delta aimed at halting the sabotage that has cost the country its place as Africa’s biggest petroleum producer.
Tuesday’s attack caused a massive spill, flooding a creek knee-deep in crude, Batan community leader Dickson Ogugu said.
No group claimed responsibility, and there was no immediate comment from the government.
But a militant group called the Niger Delta Green Land Justice Mandate threatened last week to blow up the pipeline to show its displeasure that the region is represented at the peace talks by “those associated with the causes of a long history of neglect and impoverishment.”
Buhari’s first meeting with Niger Delta community and civil society leaders on the issue ended inconclusively, with the president saying he would weigh their concerns alongside an upcoming report from security agencies and “revisit the situation” at an unspecified date.
Among other things, local leaders want the government to give oil blocks to states in southern oil-producing areas.
The militants and government had agreed to a truce that neither has honoured. Nigeria’s military continues punishing raids that often target entire communities, civil society groups say.
The Trans Forcados pipeline was bombed in July and only resumed operations two days ago, defying militant warnings that no repairs be carried out on attacked installations. The pipeline carries crude and gas to the 400,000-barrel-a-day Forcados export terminal owned by Anglo-Dutch multinational Shell.
That brief resumption allowed the oil ministry to announce Tuesday that production had increased to 2.1 million barrels a day. That’s the highest since attacks began in February that at one point reduced production by a million barrels a day, throwing Africa’s biggest economy into recession.
Militants are demanding that oil multinationals leave the region, noting decades of careless production has destroyed fishing grounds and agricultural fields. The multinationals operate joint ventures in which Nigeria’s government is a majority shareholder.