Just when it looked like that Nigerian militants and government had suspended confrontation and attacks to give peace in the restive oil-rich Niger Delta a chance, at least six Nigerian soldiers were killed in a fresh Army campaign against militants in the Delta, according to security officials.
Army and security forces launched on Sunday a new campaign to try to hunt down militants held responsible for oil thefts in the Ajakpa community in Ondo state, west of the Niger Delta.
On Monday, the Nigerian Army said in a statement that troops in a special operations mission in Ajakpa community repelled an attack on the troops. The attack was led by gang leader Ossy Ibori who was killed in a gun fight along with some members of his gang, the Army said.
Today, military officials told a news conference that at least six soldiers were killed, as was the leader of the gang, Reuters reports, adding that the operation is still ongoing.
The Ijaw Youth Council, which represents the largest ethnic group in the area, blamed the army for harming civilians.
The military, for its part, dismissed the allegations, saying that they are propaganda.
Just earlier this week, Nigeria’s Ministry of Petroleum Resources said that with a new funding arrangement for the joint ventures with international oil majors, Nigeria expects its crude oil production to rise to 2.5 million bpd by 2019, from 2.2 million bpd capacity now.
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Nigeria’s current production is not exceeding 2 million bpd, and currently sits at around 1.9 million bpd, including 350,000 bpd in condensates, S&P Global Platts has estimated. OPEC’s secondary sources pegged Nigeria’s crude oil production at 1.545 million bpd in March, down from 1.575 million bpd in February.
Nigeria plans to increase its crude oil output by the summer, after repair work on the still shut-in Forcados is completed and maintenance at the Bonga field has ended.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.