Nigeria's president is ordering a crackdown on those behind a wave of kidnappings and violence in the country's oil-rich Niger Delta. Security patrols are being increased in the region to ease security fears.
President Olusegun Obasanjo branded those behind the current wave of kidnappings in the delta as terrorists.
The Nigerian leader told security chiefs, oil companies executives and governors from the delta that the administration will no longer tolerate acts of violence now threatening the oil industry. He said the government will place sanctions on any government or oil industry body that pays ransoms.
Previous crackdowns on militants in the delta led to an escalation in violence. Emma Amanze, a journalist with a long experience covering the delta, says the use of force by the government is not the most plausible solution.
"The kidnappings we are seeing now are isolated ones," said Amanze. "They are not like the organized ones. It is just some few people in one or two communities doing that on their own. It is not like the very first ones. In all, what should still be done is consultation, dialogue. There is no way taking the fight to them is going to solve it. So far, the government has not been able to match them force for force. If they still want to continue, the militants are well armed."
Thousands of troops have been deployed in the region, but they have failed to counter the growing violence.
The sheer number of oil installations and pipelines makes protection of oil infrastructure and personnel difficult. Shell, which is the largest foreign oil company in Nigeria, has more than 1,000 oil wells, and these wells are linked to a 6,000-kilometer pipeline network.
About 16 foreign oil workers have been kidnapped in the past two weeks. Nine have been released unharmed.
Local press reports suggest some international oil companies in Nigeria have demanded an urgent improvement in the security situation
The kidnappings and attacks in the past seven months have forced a production shutdown of 500,000 barrels per day of oil in Nigeria. The country is Africa's leading oil producer, and derives about 95 percent of export earnings and 40 percent of its gross domestic product from oil sales.