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AMNESTY: Anatomy of an ill-conceived initiative

By Hector IGBIKIOWUBO

INDICATIONS are that the amnesty granted Niger Delta militants who have successfully shut-in 1.32 million barrels per day of Nigeria’s crude oil production may fail to achieve the objective for which it was designed if major acts of sabotage against oil and gas facilities recorded since the announcement was made by President Umaru Yar’Adua is anything to go by.

Militant
Militant

Sweet crude investigations have also revealed that Nigeria’s crude oil production may have dropped to an all time low, registering an average 1.46 million barrels per day in the month of July.

It was also gathered that following the steep decline in oil production, the 2009 budget originally predicated on 2.2 million barrels production per day at an average $45 per barrel may be in jeopardy.

Hopes of the amnesty offered militants in the Niger Delta checking the wanton attacks on oil and gas pipelines seems to be fading by the day, with seven such attacks already recorded since the announcement was made by President Umaru Yar’Adua.

A few days after the amnesty offer was made; Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) launched an attack on a Shell facility.

In a tacit admission of the development, the company said it had shut some production as a precautionary measure while it investigated reports of attacks on two well clusters in its Estuary Field in the western Niger Delta, which feeds into its Forcados oil export terminal.

“Hurricane Piper Alpha has struck at the Shell Forcados platform in Delta state today [Monday] … at about 3.30am” the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said in a statement emailed to media.

Thereafter, it’s been one attack after another with Shell, Agip and Chevron at the receiving end of these attacks
Twice, the group struck Shell’s Cawthorne Channel undermining crude oil supplies to the Bonny loading terminal in Rivers state.
MEND also claimed it blew up Chevron’s Okan manifold in the southern Delta state early last month, hours after it attacked an oil well head operated by Shell.

“The strategic Okan manifold, which controls about 80% of Chevron Nigeria Limited offshore crude oil to its BOP crude loading platform, was blown up at about 2045 hours on Sunday,” MEND said in another emailed statement.

A company staff who did not want his name in print confirmed the attack, noting that it was not possible for the company to continue to operate under the current circumstances.

“We can only operate in an atmosphere where the lives of our personnel are not under constant threat. We do hope that government would be able to restore an atmosphere conducive for business to thrive.”

Chevron, Shell and Italian energy company Agip have shut around 273,000 barrels per day of oil production in Nigeria since MEND launched its latest string of attacks in May,Amnesty:

Government had announced Friday 26th June, 2009 the amnesty for militants in the Niger Delta will take effect from August 6, 2009.
“We have the 60 days period of grace from August 6, 2009 for all those who are willing to embrace the amnesty to surrender their weapons and renounce militancy,” Interior Minister Major-General Godwin Abbey disclosed.

“Between now and 6th of August, discussions are continuing with the leadership of the militants,” Abbey, who heads the government amnesty panel, added, clarifying the grace period for the offer to be Yar’Adua had said on Thursday that an amnesty would cease to be effective from October 4, 2006 and advised the rebels who have been attacking oil firms and personnel in the region in the past three and a half years to take advantage of the offer.

The minister said the government would not pay cash for any arms surrendered by the militants.
Since the amnesty offer was announced, most commentators, stakeholders and opinion molders in the region have taken government to task over the way and manner it was conceived, noting that the offer failed to address the circumstances that led to militancy in the first place.

Worst still, since the announcement was made, no reputable militant has taken up the offer for fear of government insincerity.
In Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta states, there have been allegations of overzealous security men changing the charges preferred against some militants in custody just to ensure they do not benefit from the offer.

There have also been allegations of extra-judicial killings preferred against security agents.
Multinational support lacking:

To further underscore the ill conceived nature of the amnesty package, while on a visit to the UK, Chief Ufot Ekaette, the minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta was quoted as saying government have budgeted millions of dollars for the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta, but have not received any financial support from foreign oil companies.

Indications are that owing to dwindling federal revenue, falling oil prices and production, the government may not be able to pay for the programme on its own. “Right now, they (oil companies) have not been contributing,” Ufot Ekaette disclosed to Reuters.

“We want to talk to all the stakeholders because whatever happens will affect them and they should be making contributions towards restoring peace to the area,” he said.

However, when contacted, a Shell spokesman said the government has yet to formally approach the company for financial support.
“We are not aware of any such request. The amnesty programme is a matter between the Nigerian federal government and the militants,” the spokesman said.

Chevron and Agip declined immediate comment.
It is anticipated that the amnesty package could cost as much as N50 billion to implement including disarming, educating and rehabilitating about 20,000 militants and criminals.

On the increased spate of attacks after the amnesty offer was made by the President, Ekaette said he was still expecting the amnesty to be a success.

Oil production drops to 1.46mb/d:
Although available OPEC figures for June indicates that crude oil production averaged 1.746 mb/d in June, down from an average 1.790 mb/d in May, Sweet crude independent checks indicates that owing to the wanton attacks by militants current crude oil output may have dropped abysmally low, averaging 1.46 mb/d.

OPEC crude oil production averaged 28.44 mb/d in June, a minor increase of 39 tb/d over the previous month, according to secondary sources. Not including Iraq, OPEC output averaged 26.03 mb/d for a gain of 56 tb/d. The increase came mainly from Angola, Iran and Saudi Arabia, while crude production from Nigeria declined. OPEC crude production in the second quarter averaged 28.33 mb/d.


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