Nigeria deploys troops in oil-rich Bayelsa

The deployment follows annulled election results and reports of a rise in pirate attacks in the Niger Delta region.

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Nigeria deployed troops in the southern state of Bayelsa on Tuesday after a court annulled the local election of its governor because of alleged irregularities.

This comes as ongoing instability in the oil-rich region appears to be broadening to the waters around the Niger Delta, with a report this week citing the region as a hot spot for pirate activity. The reported rise of militant activity in recent years has cut the country's petroleum production by about 20 percent. That's helped send oil prices to all-time highs, analysts say.

Judge Saka Ibiyeye quashed the election of Bayelsa Gov. Timipre Sylva of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) Tuesday, saying that Mr. Sylva failed to produce an authentic results sheet and could not prove an election for governor actually took place. After the court ruling, Reuters reports that soldiers were sent to the capital of Bayelsa state.

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Violence flared after elections in 2003 and 2007. This week's revoked election results were the 10th in recent history, reports the BBC.

The deployment also followed reports of militant youths occupying a Royal Dutch Shell oil installation in Bayelsa last week, shutting down its production of 5,000 barrels a day. After the militants ended their occupation of the facility, Voice of America quoted a state government spokesman, who said that the protests were triggered by the company's "inability" to honor the terms of a memorandum of understanding for relations with the local community. Government officials said the raid was not an indication of widespread unrest.

Although Nigeria, which is the world's eighth-largest oil producer, moved toward democracy with civilian elections in 1999, corruption is widespread and rebels continue fighting in the south. The apparent aim of many of the rebel groups: That a greater share of oil revenues be spent on local services.

Oil companies there continue to ward off attacks on facilities and the kidnappings of oil workers. Gangs and militant groups appear to have become more organized in recent years and are often inextricably linked with politicians and ethnic leaders, reported The Economist in 2007:

News of the troops deployment in the region also followed a report this week on the rise of pirate attacks by the maritime watchdog organization, the ICC International Maritime Bureau, the Associated Press reports.

A map of the attacks can be found here.

The Christian Science Monitor noted a series of pirate attacks in the Niger Delta coast in March this year:

There is little corroboration for past claims of an Al Qaeda presence or terrorist plot in the country, reports the BBC. But other militant groups showed indication in 2006 of increasing sophistication, reported The Christian Science Monitor. That includes the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

Reuters adds:

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