By May 26, 2016 Read More →

Nigerian leaders warn against Niger Delta crackdown as Chevron attacked

Chevron’s Niger Delta operations shut down by militant attack

Niger Delta

The Niger Delta Avengers said they were responsible for an explosion at Chevron’s Escravos terminal.  Nigerian Times photo.

By Tife Owolabi and Libby George

YENAGOA, Nigeria/LONDON, May 26 (Reuters) – Chevron’s onshore operations in Nigeria’s Niger Delta have been shut by a militant attack at its Escravos terminal, sources said on Thursday, and local leaders said military confrontation would not end the violence.

A militant group called the Niger Delta Avengers, which has told oil firms to leave the Delta before the end of May, said late on Wednesday that it had blown up the facility’s mains electricity feed. Its attacks have hobbled oil output over the past month.

A company source told Reuters that “all activities in Chevron are grounded” onshore while oilindustry sources said roughly 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Escravos were gone due to the latest attack and another on Chevron’s offshore facilities earlier this month. Planned Escravos exports in the first half of 2016 averaged 167,000 bpd.

A Twitter account with the group’s name said late on Wednesday: “We Warned #Chevron<… but they didn’t Listen. @NDAvengers< > just blow up the Escravos tank farm Main Electricity Feed PipeLine.”

A Chevron spokeswoman in the United States said it was against policy to comment on the safety and security of personnel and operations.

The Avengers and other militants, who say they are fighting for a greater share of oil profits, an end to pollution and independence for the region, have intensified attacks in recent months, pushing oil output to its lowest in more than 20 years and compounding the problems of Africa’s largest economy.

Abuja has responded by moving in army reinforcements but British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said this month that President Muhammadu Buhari needed to deal with the root causes.

A committee set up by Delta state leaders warned on Thursday that a military approach would not work and saw “an apparent consensus” that the federal government and oil companies have neglected the grievances of local communities.

“There is total willingness by the communities to help the federal government end oil facility vandalism provided there is a recognised platform to do so,” the committee said after meeting local communities.

Delta residents, some of whom sympathise with the militants, have long complained of poverty in an area producing oil accounting for 70 percent of national income.

Other attacks have forced Shell and ENI to declare force majeure on exports of Bonny Light, Forcados and Brass River crude, while an accident at an ExxonMobil terminal put Qua Iboe under force majeure. Fears of loading delays and cancellations have made international buyers reluctant to seek Nigerian crude.

Nigeria is now pumping under 1.5 million bpd – less than Angola – and well below the 2.2 million bpd assumed in the 2016 state budget.

The Delta committee said that, given the attacks, “it is doubtful if the expectations of the budget can be fulfilled.”

(Additional reporting by Julia Payne in London; Writing by Ulf Laessing and Ed Cropley; Editing by Louise Ireland/Ruth Pitchford)

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