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Nigerian Military Steps Up Security in  Delta


The Nigerian military says it is taking the recent warning of possible attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta very seriously. Armed protesters have seized another oil facility in the region.

In the latest attack, armed protesters seized an oil production facility in the southern state of Bayelsa.

But a spokesman for the Nigerian army garrison in oil-rich Rivers State, says intelligence gathered by the military confirmed a larger attack was imminent.

Major Sagir Musa, told VOA that the military had taken adequate steps to counter the threat.

"Yes, we are taking that threat seriously, bearing in mind our mandate; making a conducive atmosphere for the multi-national oil companies to operate unhindered, without any molestation, without any problem," he said. "We are mindful of our responsibility and threat of the militants, we are not taking it lightly. We are up to the task. Before they issued that press statement, we were aware through our security and intelligence network."

U.S. diplomats issued a warning last Friday on the likelihood of a unified attack against oil facilities in the region. The attacks allegedly will be carried out during the first week of November and may involve 10 to 20 simultaneous bombings of land-based targets and separate attacks on oil installations in which expatriate workers will be taken hostage.

Militant attacks have cut output by about 500,000 barrels per day since February in the world's eighth-largest petroleum exporter.

The latest threat is pushing international oil prices higher.

But Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association President Peter Esele rejects reports that Nigeria's oil output has slackened due to spiraling violence. The leader of one of Nigeria's two main oil unions says Nigeria has produced its OPEC quota, despite the delta crisis.

"They [government] do not lose 500,000 barrels per day, they do not lose it. What they do is, if 500,000 per day is lost from Shell and there is stability in Mobil, they tell Mobil to produce more than their daily quota. Then if there is relative stability in Total, they will tell Total to fill it up," said Esele. "So, on daily basis you still have 2.1 million or so coming out of Nigeria. The only area they are really going to feel the pain is when all the producers are shut down."

The militants have demanded the release of their leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who is on trial for allegedly plotting against the Nigerian government. They are also asking for greater regional control over oil and gas resources.

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