Nigeria’s Robin Hood takes on the oil giants

The following video shows an oil depot in Lagos going up in flames on Sunday night after an attack by armed fighters from Nigeria's biggest militant group. Read more and see the footage...


Image posted on Flickr by Dulue Mbachu/ ISN Security Watch.

The following video shows an oil depot in Lagos going up in flames on Sunday night after an attack by armed fighters from Nigeria's biggest militant group.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the attack on Nigeria's crucial Atlas Cove oil depot (where oil is stored for export), in which five workers were killed. It was the group's first attack outside of the Niger Delta, where much of Nigeria's oil extraction takes place. MEND, referred to by some Nigerian bloggers as the country's Robin Hood for standing up for the rights of impoverished residents of the resource-rich Niger Delta, is the country's leading rebel group. President Umaru Yar'Adua's government offered the insurgents an amnesty on June 25 and released one of its top leaders, Henry Okah, on Monday (13 July) in the hope of a ceasefire. The group have until October 4 this year to surrender their weapons. [UPDATE - 15 July 2009: MEND has agreed to a 60-day ceasefire in response to Okah's release].

MEND's increased operations in the past few years have dramatically endangered Nigeria's oil industry, forcing the closure of plants owned by Anglo-Dutch giant Shell and US-based Chevron. 

Amateur footage of the attack

Filmed by tourists from Bar Beach on Victoria Island, two kilometres east of Atlas Cove depot. Posted on YouTube by "duncilliam".

“In the last two months, MEND has knocked out at least a half a million barrels per day”

Gregor Macdonald is a blogger from Amherst, Massachusetts. He writes a blog on energy.

The last 60 days have proved beyond any doubt that MEND, which ostensibly represents a sub-nation of 31 million people in the Niger Delta, are capable of mounting a full, traditional-style military offensive. The result? Nigerian oil output now sits at half the 2005 production high of 2.6 million barrels a day. Indeed, in just the last two months, MEND has knocked out at least a half a million barrels per day, bringing daily production levels down to 1.3 million barrels a day. This is going to crush the government's net revenue in Abuja.

The surge that MEND has now very effectively delivered will unquestionably strengthen their hand as the political process now unfolds to grant further autonomy over resources in the Delta. MEND is a key player.

For decades, the global oil industry has operated a kind of limited liability venture in the Niger Delta. And, in partnership with the dysfunctional government in Abuja, oil extraction has defiled this delicate ecosystem with industrial pollution. MEND's response is to attack and sabotage this oil and gas infrastructure.

And while it's regrettable that some oil workers have lost their lives in the troubles of the delta, how does one begin to quantify the serial and chronic impact that half a century of environmental destruction has wrought on millions of people? The gas flares themselves inflict their own particular damage, raising the temperatures of villages by as much as 10-15 °F [5 - 8 °C, see image below]. It's time to channel one's inner revolutionary instinct and admit that MEND actually makes sense. Whether one sees them as heroic, clever, or rather up to date with their email and press releases, they are definitely among the world's most effective oil actors."

Gas flaring in the Niger Delta seen from space. Releasing gas from natural oil reserves has to be done in order to allow the subsequent extraction of oil.