Nigeria rebels declare cease-fire in oil-rich delta
Opting for dialogue, President Umaru Yar'Adua promises to address underdevelopment in the region.
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Last week's attack on an oil facility run by Royal Dutch Shell showed MEND's increased reach, which the group was quick to highlight in a claim of responsibility, reports The New York Times. The platform is 75 miles offshore, and the rebels used speedboats in the attack. Although they were unable to enter and blow up the control room – their stated aim – the incident led Shell to shut down the facility, which produces some 225,000 barrels a day in the Bonga field.Skip to next paragraph
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The pipeline was still down as of Sunday, according to Nigeria's oil minister.
In response to Thursday's oil-rig raid, Yar'Adua called last week for a military offensive against the rebels, reports VOA News. A presidential spokesman said that militants who "spurn the peace overtures of the federal government" would face the full consequences, as authorities must restore law and order. The rebels' cause of fighting for economic justice often blurs into communal and ethnic rivalries, says VOA News, and extortion and sabotage have become big business in the oil-rich south. This instability has dented Nigeria's appeal to Western oil companies.
The opposition Action Congress Party says the violence in the delta is a "crisis of immense proportion" that requires a sustained peace process that gives voices to local communities, not just the elders, reports the Vanguard newspaper in Lagos. In a statement, the party asks how the rebels were able to reach Shell's offshore rig and calls for a probe into the attack.
The tussle over who gets the spoils of Nigeria's mineral resources is testing the country's political framework, reports The Christian Science Monitor. Oil extraction, which began in the 1950s, has spawned a superrich elite, while most of the country's 140 million people get by on a couple of dollars a day.