The setback comes at a bad time for Nigeria, when it is trying to conclude complex negotiations for offshore oil projects in the Gulf of Guinea and facing international criticism over President Olusegun OPbasanjo's supposed desire to serve a third term.
More than 455,000 barrels of crude per day have been shut in by recent Ijaw attacks and hostage-taking incidents, and the ethnic militants have been quoted as saying they hope to stop the flow of a million barrels per day in the near future.
But Nigerian oil minister and OPEC President Dr. Edmund Daukoru said in Wednesday's editions of several papers that some 75 percent of the shut-in oil would be restored within two weeks.
The rebels' statement was full of unintelligible political rhetoric.
Here is the Daily Independent article:
Militants Set March 10 For Fresh Attack
By Bassey Udo and
Donald Ojogo (Lagos)
Niger Delta militants have ruled out further negotiation with Abuja, dimming hope of an early release of the remaining three captives.
The militants said on Monday that they have lost faith in the government’s ability to ensure a fruitful dialogue.
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the hostage takers, gave a three-day ultimatum within which their demands must be met. The deadline expires on March 10.
It renewed its call on the government to unconditionally release Mujahideen Asari-Dokubo (held on treason charges) and former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, (on trial for money laundering).
The other conditions include the immediate payment of $1.5 billion by Shell to the Ijaw of Bayelsa State and the implementation the 25 per cent derivation canvassed by Niger Delta delegates to the National Conference last year.
This development comes on the heels of an attack on a Shell platform at Agge Manifold in Bayelsa State by the insurgents last Saturday.
The MEND issued a statement on Monday, signed by Brutus Ebipade, which recommended a new body to facilitate further talks on the release of the captives.
It said: “As much as our terms are non-negotiable, we want to be understood very clearly. The Nigerian Government should know that we respect the efforts of the FNDIC and others in their parallel ideology of peace and reconciliatory policies in resolving the hostage situation but MEND is, however, (privy) to the politics of such deliberations and finds it futile as it shall amount to avenues to import more economic hostilities to multiply the austerity and servility of the Niger Delta child.
“The demands of MEND cannot be subsidised as our resolve to rebel to free the Niger Delta child is a discretion greater than self, so no amount of economic, social or political persuasion shall redeem the last three hostages – Cody Oswald, Ruspal Spell, and John Hudspitch – personifying the Anglo-American ring of fire pillaging and ravaging the Niger Delta area with the weapons of mass sustainable under-development.
“As the minutes tick away to the final countdown on the 10th of March, MEND, having dissected the depth of NGOs and their policies, principles and positions about the rounded intellectual emancipation of the Niger Delta child in the visions of the Niger Delta region, we have resolved to give an irrevocable vote of great confidence to a non-governmental organisation, the Union and Integration of the Niger Delta Child for Youth Development (UNIFYD).
“This organisation has been empowered to pursue alongside existing channels of negotiation and interpret the context of our demands to whatever extent that remains prosperous to the posterity of the Niger Delta emancipation campaign.
“UNIFYD shall liaise, discuss and deliberate, partnered by foreign (United Nations, United States and British) representatives and domestic negotiators (FINDC and other elder statesmen) to reach a conclusive depth on our demands.
“MEND wants it on record that the President, persuaded by his third-term trauma, has lost the statesmanship of handling issues sensitive to the Nigerian state. We have lost faith in the Presidential will of Obasanjo to negotiate the release of the hostages”.
Nonetheless, Information and National Orientation Minister, Frank Nwek, expressed optimism that the hostages would soon be released.
“The Federal Government entrusted someone to handle the situation, we are unaware of this latest development because we are yet to be briefed”, he said.
Meanwhile, an uncompromising stance by Iran on its planned nuclear development programme, coupled with the new threat by the Niger Delta militants, have pushed oil prices on the international market above $63 per barrel (pb).
On Monday, United States crude, which rose to a new month high levels of $63.92 pb, went down by 27 cents to $63.42 a barrel, ending a four-day rally. London Brent crude shed 32 cents to a new price of $63.86 pb.
Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) President Dr. Edmund Daukoru told CNN though that the organisation would not consider pumping more crude into the market as its members meet today in Vienna.