Nigerian militant group the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, Monday said it was ready to assist the Nigerian government halt the upsurge in oil theft and pipeline attacks in the oil region if the government met its demands.
Although MEND did not state its demands in its e-mailed statement, the group had previously demanded control of oil resources in the Niger Delta by local communities and lately the release of a leader of the group, Henry Okah who was handed 24-years jail term in March by a South African court on terrorism-related charges.
“The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta is ready to end activities of illegitimate oil merchants, pipeline vandalization and the unrest in the Niger Delta region when the reason we took up arms is addressed by a listening administration,” MEND said the statement signed by a spokesman using the pseudonym Jomo Gbomo.
MEND had September 4 said it was ignoring the activities of criminals loading stolen crude into barges in Niger Delta creeks for shipment into ocean tankers, because it helped the group in achieving its objective of crippling oil production.
Oil theft, coupled with an Islamist insurgency raging in Nigeria’s north, have both stretched the security forces and hit the economy.
White-collar oil workers’ union Pengassan Monday threatened to order its members to withdraw their services if the government failed to stem a spate of kidnappings and other security challenges in Niger Delta region that disrupt production and severely hurt Nigeria’s economy.
Insecurity in the Delta has meant Nigeria has so far been unable to meet its production target of 2.53 million b/d set for 2013.
Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics said at the weekend that oil production dropped year-on-year by 180,000 b/d to 2.29 million b/d in the second quarter as a result of pipeline vandalization.