Nigeria Deploys Troops to Protect Oil Facilities From Attack

  • Halted Forcados oil pipeline showed signs of external damage
  • Troops will guard oil installations in the Niger Delta region

Nigeria is deploying more troops to protect oil installations to curb sabotage after a leak forced crude loadings to be suspended last month at a major export terminal.

“We’ve observed that some internal forces are bent on sabotaging the activities of the oil-production companies,” Brigadier-General Rabe Abubakar, Nigeria’s military spokesman, said in interview on Tuesday in Abuja, the capital. “We are taking extra steps to ensure that we guard these facilities” including pipelines, oil platforms and other installations, he said.

Loading at the Forcados oil terminal, where Nigeria shipped around 200,000 barrels a day last year, was halted after the leak appeared on Feb. 14, according to Royal Dutch Shell Plc. While the company stopped short of calling it an act of sabotage, it said damage observed on the export pipeline was “consistent with the application of external force.”

Shell hasn’t said when it will lift the force majeure -- a legal status protecting a party from liability if it can’t fulfill a contract for reasons beyond its control -- on Forcados shipments.

Criminal Gangs

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, loses an estimated 300,000 barrels a day to criminal gangs that tap crude from pipelines that criss-cross the oil-rich southern delta, using it in local refineries or selling it to tankers waiting offshore, according to state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. The country pumped 1.9 million barrels a day last year on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“We have a large task force that can contain any aggression,” Abubakar said. “We have enough troops and other security agencies that can face the challenge of the times.”

The move to protect energy installations follows complaints on Feb. 29 from Shoreline Natural Resources Ltd., the third biggest domestic Nigerian oil and gas producer. Chief Executive Officer Kola Karim urged the deployment of troops to the delta region following the suspension of crude loadings at Forcados.

“We’re faced with the devil on all fronts,” Karim said. “Prices are awfully low, our export terminal has been attacked and we can’t export even if we produce.”

Boko Haram

On the security situation in the northeast of the country, Abubakar reiterated President Muhammadu Buhari’s assertions that the military has halted Islamist militant group Boko Haram’s ability to carry out formidable attacks, despite continuing suicide bombings and massacres in villages in the region.

The military has made tremendous impact in its war in the northeast, clearing out Boko Haram from all territories it previously held, Abubakar said. Troops have destroyed more than 38 locations used as camps including in Alargano, the group’s largest base outside its Sambisa forest stronghold.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people during a seven-year campaign to establish Islamic rule in Africa’s largest economy. The group’s brutal tactics rose to international prominence after it abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from their dormitories in April 2014 in Chibok, a town in the northeastern Borno state. Most of the girls haven’t been found.

“I believe there will be light at the end of the tunnel,” Abubakar said, referring to attempts to rescue the students, without giving details. “Not only the Chibok girls, but any other captives will be freed.”

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