The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has claimed responsibility for a May 26 night attack
on a Shell oil facility. A government spokesman confirmed the explosion
, suggesting “that explosives might have been used by miscreants.” Through its website
, MEND claims that 11 deaths resulted from the blast, although officials deny that anyone was hurt. The Niger Delta has long been plagued by violence, including the January 2006 kidnapping of four Shell workers
by MEND and the October 1998 explosion that killed more than 1,000 people in Jesse, Nigeria
. These and other episodes of violence—including pipeline sabotaging and kidnapping—have regularly disrupted the Niger Delta. Anger over increased economic marginalization—in 2006, Nigeria ranked 159th out of 177 countries
on the UN Human Development Index—distrust of the national government, and a lack of effective avenues of recourse for those left behind by Nigeria’s oil boom have driven violent protests against the state and international oil corporations. Moreover, local people, many of whom live on less than $1 per day, sometimes cut holes in the pipes to siphon oil, which can inadvertently cause dangerous explosions.
Earlier this month, more than 100 people were killed when a construction vehicle struck an oil pipeline in Nigeria, reports the Nigerian Red Cross. Reports indicate that this event was an accident, but the explosion nevertheless prompted the editorial board of the Abuja-based newspaper Leadership to suggest that “all those who live near oil pipelines should consider relocating to safer places,” and to condemn the “wealth-seeking, greedy soldiers and policemen who are supposed to protect us and our property from criminals.”
For more on the politics and conflict surrounding oil in Nigeria, see this article by Kenneth Omeje, a research fellow at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom, which examines Nigeria’s experience with oil extraction, the paradoxical circumstance of simultaneous resource scarcity and abundance, and the violent outbursts spawned by perceived government mismanagement of the country’s oil reserves.