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Nigerian Lawmaker: Poor Funding Hampering Niger Delta Operations

The Nigerian military faces a huge task in checking the growing violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta, a remote region of mangrove swamps. Inadequate funding is also being blamed for undermining the capacity of the military to take effective charge of security in the region.

Violence in Africa's top oil producer has cut output by more than 20 percent since February, when militants fighting for regional control of the deltas oil wealth staged series of attacks on the oil industry.

The government responded by deploying thousands of soldiers to the region to check the growing militancy.

Analysts say the situation has continued to deteriorate as the military appears to be having some difficulty in stopping the growing wave of hostage-taking in the Niger Delta.

In August, President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered troops, as he put it, to meet fire for fire by cracking down hard on militants responsible for most of the violence.

The Chairman of Nigeria's House of Representatives Committee on Navy, Anthony Aziegbemi, told VOA that inadequate funding is seriously undermining the capacity of the Nigerian navy, which is leading the military campaign in the delta.

"On a yearly basis, the capital allocation to the navy is about two billion naira or 2.5 billion, which is about $16 million," he said. "Can anybody tell me how you expect the navy to effectively protect a $100 billion investment with $16 million? It is not possible. It does not make sense."

The national president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association, Peter Esele, wants the government to play down on the use of force and address some of the region's long-standing grievances. He says the government should come up with a plan for the regions development.

"We agree that you cannot develop the delta in one day. But you must have a road map, that, okay this is how we want the Niger Delta to look like in 10 years time," said Esele. "And then you now start following the indices that will bring about Niger Delta looking really like an oil producing area."

More than 150 oil workers, almost half of them foreigners, have been kidnapped and released unharmed in Nigeria this year.

A British oil worker was killed and two wounded in an attempt Wednesday to free seven foreign oil workers abducted from a Nigerian offshore oil field.

The killing of the British workers was the first time such a kidnapping ended in death for an expatriate employee. One Nigerian oil worker was killed during another rescue attempt earlier this year.