Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has ordered a military offensive to
curb the rising mayhem in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The action comes
days after oil rebels attacked a key petroleum facility in the region.
Gilbert da Costa has more for VOA in this report from Abuja.
president's spokesman, Segun Adeniyi, told reporters that a major
military crackdown in the troubled Niger Delta is inevitable as the
government seeks to halt the spiraling violence.
federal government remains fully committed to rapid resolution of
problems and grievance of the people of the Niger Delta, it will not
shirk its responsibility for law and order, as well as the safety of
lives and property in the Niger Delta and all other parts of Nigeria.
Militants in the region who continue to spurn the peace overtures of
the federal government must be prepared to face the full consequences
of taking up arms against their fatherland," he said. "The federal
government will take all necessary action to stop criminals from
willfully depriving the region of this indispensable ingredient of
The planned military offensive comes after Delta
rebels stormed the offshore Bonga oil fields operated by Royal Dutch
Shell, in the vast wetland region which has all of Nigeria's oil,
resulting in the company's decision to cut output by 200,000 barrels
The most powerful rebel group in the region, the
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has claimed
responsibility for the attack and promised further raids on the oil
The group has made the release of its presumed leader,
Henry Okah, who is currently on trial for treason, a pre-condition for
suspending its campaign of violence.
At peak production levels,
Nigeria can pump around 2.6 million barrels of crude daily, but attacks
by militants have cut production by 25 percent.
say they are fighting for control of the region's oil wealth, but their
fight is intertwined with communal and ethnic rivalries in the delta,
where kidnapping for ransom, extortion and oil theft are also big
Despite the rising tensions, the government says constructive dialogue with local communities will continue.
have acknowledged that poverty and neglect lie at the root of many of
the Delta's problems. Recent measures to try and foster development in
the region have failed to quell discontent.
Nigeria has lost its
status as Africa's leading oil producer to Angola since April and at
least one Western oil company, Total, is reviewing its future operation
in Nigeria due to the violence.