Nigeria’s military on Friday said they had arrested 19 suspected oil militants as they ramp up operations to stop pipeline attacks bringing the country’s economy to a standstill.
Troops thwarted an attempt to blow up a pipeline operated by the Nigerian subsidiary of Italy’s Eni and arrested suspected pipeline vandals and oil thieves, it said in a statement.
Three coordinators of “several pipeline bombings” were among those detained in operations conducted across the oil-producing southern states of Bayelsa and Delta, it added.
“One of the arrested suspects, John Oboka — aka Jamaica — confessed to being part of the group that bombed the Nigerian Petroleum Developing Company (NPDC) crude oil pipeline at Escravos,” said the statement.
There was no indication as to whether those arrested were connected to the Niger Delta Avengers, the high-profile group that has claimed a series of attacks on Nigeria’s oil infrastructure since February.
The attacks have cut production to an estimated 1.6 million barrels per day, well below the expected 2.2 million bpd, heaping pressure on an economy hit by falling crude prices since mid-2014.
Abuja has offered to talk with the Avengers but the militant group has denied reports it has met government representatives.
“There is no ideal solution for the federal government, there are just hard and even harder choices to make,” Dirk Steffen, maritime security director at Risk Intelligence in Denmark, told AFP.
The security operations “bear the risk of alienating the population in the Delta”, he said.
“It can also encourage some armed groups to join the fight on the side of the Avengers to show solidarity.”