Shell Shuts Flow Stations After Pipeline Attack

THIS DAY Newspaper- Chika amanze-Nwachuku

Oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) has announced that it has halted some flow stations in southern Niger Delta following a pipeline leak.

Efforts to get details of the incident proved abortive as at press time.

Also, the company failed to respond to enquiries by THISDAY yesterday night. Sources however linked the leak to acts of sabotage.

Bloomberg quoted a Shell spokesman, Precious Okolobo, as confirming the oil giant had halted some flow stations due to the leak.

"We have shut in some flow stations which produce into the line and the leak has stopped.

"Repair work will commence as soon as possible," the news wire quoted Okolobo as saying in an e-mailed statement.

The report said the leak was discovered on January 30, the same day that MEND said it was ending an indefinite ceasefire launched late last year following the Federal Govern-ment's amnesty programme.

However spokesman of MEND, Jomo Gbomo, in an emailed statement said the group was not "directly involved" in the sabotage, which they said was caused by "freelance commandoes,".

Nigeria's crude production had dropped below 1.3 million barrels following years of unrest in the oil-rich region.

But oil production, including condensate, had increased to about 2.4 million following the October 4, 2009, implementation of the Federal Government amnesty to thousands of militants who laid down their weapons.

Mid last December, MEND claimed responsibility for the attack on a major crude oil delivery pipeline in the creeks of Abonema, Rivers State. The group said it carried out the attack to protest the prolonged absence of ailing President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua from the country, adding that the slow pace of implementation of the post-amnesty programme was unacceptable to them.

Also on January 10, United States oil major Chevron was forced to shut down 20,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil production following an attack on its Makaraba-Utonana pipeline in Delta State.

Gbomo had in a statement said MEND sanctioned the attack, although it denied the group's involvement. He also announced that MEND would review its ceasefire, declared in October because of the slow progress in implementing the terms of the amnesty.

The group last Saturday announced that it had suspended the ceasefire.

It is feared that the relative peace achieved in the Niger Delta may be in jeopardy as MEND, while justifying its action, said it was annoyed by the lack of government action on their demands.

A statement from the group signed by Gbomo demanded that oil companies halt all oil exploration and exportation. It also warned that the blood of those who ignore the warning should be upon the head of any company that disregards it.

"All companies related to the oil industry in the Niger Delta should prepare for an all-out onslaught against their installations and personnel. Nothing will be spared. In this phase, we will extend attacks to oil service companies which have experienced a boom as a result of the misfortunes of oil producing companies, repairing pipelines destroyed in attacks.

"The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta warns all oil companies to halt operations as any operational installation attacked will be burnt to the ground. Oil companies are responsible for the safety and welfare of their workers and will bear the guilt should any harm come upon their staff in the event of an attack. By now they should know the military Joint Task Force (JTF) cannot protect their installations or staff in the event of an attack," MEND stated.


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