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Nigeria To Send Troops To Protect Niger Delta Oil Assets

In the wake of a series of attacks on Niger Delta oil installations and an increase in oil theft in recent weeks, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has announced that military and special task forces will be deployed to protect key assets in the area.

Buhari said the country was facing an increasing frequency in sabotage of Niger Delta oil facilities and a renewal of kidnappings for ransom in the coastal areas since January.

Nigerian authorities say that some 250,000 barrels per day of crude is being stolen in Nigeria, and that multiple attacks on strategic oil and gas installations are costing Nigeria $2.4 million daily.

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Nigeria produces more than 2 million barrels per day, but the new president’s all-out war on corruption tied to the previous government may relaunch and oil conflict in the Niger Delta.

The attacks began in the southern Niger Delta after a court issued an arrest warrant for former warlord Government "Tompolo" Ekpemupolo in connection with money laundering and illegal diversion of government funds.

Oil refineries in Kaduna, northwest Nigeria, and Warri, an oil hub in Delta State, operated by the state-controlled Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were all shut down following bombings in mid-January.

On 30 January, explosions hit the Agip pipeline in the Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, causing Italian oil giant ENI to lose 16,000 barrels of oil equivalent daily.

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Tompolo—who has denied any involvement in the new spate of attacks—was among those who in 2009 signed an amnesty deal in exchange for government stipends and lucrative contracts to protect installations they once sabotaged.

With a new leadership at the helm in Nigeria, deals such as this 2009 amnesty are now in limbo.

Some 80 percent of Nigeria’s oil wealth comes from the Niger Delta, and Niger Delta militants are seeking a greater share of this wealth.

The deployment of the Nigeria Army and special task forces to the Niger Delta could lead to an intensification of this re-emerging conflict.

By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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