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Blasts Hit Nigerian Oil Pipeline


Nigerian authorities are investigating explosions at two crude oil pipelines, which are causing massive spills in the southern state of Bayelsa. State authorities are seeking to end a wave of kidnappings, hostage-taking and other acts of violence in the oil-rich state.

Nigerian investigators are trying to determine whether Wednesday's explosions at two crude oil pipelines operated by Italian oil company Agip were as a result of sabotage or purely accidental. One of the blasts blew apart an 18-inch oil pipeline while the second blast hit a 10-inch riverside pipeline resulting in heavy spillage.

Bayelsa state has seen several acts of violence in recent months targeting the oil industry, including kidnappings of foreign workers and attacks on oil facilities.

State authorities say they are planning a security crackdown on militants believed responsible for the attacks. Under a new broad strategy, the state legislature is expected to approve a proposal to outlaw all acts of aggression against the oil industry.

State Attorney General and Justice Commissioner Henry Dickson says criminal elements are exploiting current agitation for local control over oil wealth and should be dealt with by the state.

"There are existing sanctions already in the criminal laws that can take care of hostage taking, incidents of kidnappings and other acts of terrorism and criminality," said Dickson. "What I am trying to do is strengthen the hands of the security agencies more and create an institutional mechanism for ease of disposal of cases like that."

Dickson says the state government is also working on streamlining the activities of groups in the region to minimize frequent bickering among local communities.

"I know from experience that most of the problems in the oil producing communities is a result of groups fighting for control and authority, supremacy in the community as to who can represent the community in MOUs [Memorandum of Understandings] with the oil companies, in receiving payments from oil companies for one thing or the other and related activities," he continued. "And so what we are trying to do, is for the first time, clearly spell out guidelines for the administration of these communities, ensure that all youth groups are registered, so we properly monitor their activities and also streamline their role, duties and responsibilities to their community and state."

Attacks on oil installations this year in the main oil-producing Niger Delta have cut more than 20 percent of Nigeria's daily oil exports of 2.5 million barrels and helped drive up world oil prices.

Militant groups in the delta say they are fighting for local control of oil revenues by the impoverished inhabitants of the region who feel cheated out of the wealth produced in their backyards.

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