The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) group said it had bombed an ExxonMobil facility in southern Nigeria just as Shell announced closure of a key oil pipeline, in the latest blow to output.
“At about 7:30 pm (1830 GMT) the Niger Delta Avengers blow up ExxonMobil Qua Iboe 48″ crude oil export pipeline,” the NDA, which has been blamed for a string of attacks on key oil and gas facilities since February, said in a statement late Monday.
The militants said international oil majors had defied its calls for a halt to exports. AFP contacted ExxonMobil but there was no immediate response.
The Niger Delta Avengers wants foreign oil companies out of the delta region, arguing local people have failed to benefit from decades of extraction that has generated billions of dollars. It also wants self-determination and political autonomy for the region.
The upsurge in unrest has reduced output in oil-rich Nigeria at a time the country is reeling from low global crude prices that have hammered government revenues.
The oil sector accounts for 70 percent of government income.
Separately, Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell said it shut down the Trans Niger Pipeline on Monday because of a leak at Gio, in Ogoniland, Rivers state, also in southern Nigeria.
“We are working towards a joint investigation visit into the cause of the leak, preparatory to repair of the line,” Precious Okolobo, the spokesman for Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary SPDC, told AFP. He did not disclose the volume of production shut-in, but the pipeline is estimated to transport 180,000 barrels per day of crude to the Bonny exports terminal.
Shell last week lifted the force majeure on Bonny Light exports, which was declared on May 11 after a leak was found on the Nembe line. Okolobo added.
Force majeure is a legal term that frees a company from any contractual obligation due to circumstances beyond its control.
Shell, a major oil operator in Nigeria, has often blamed sabotage for most of the spills in the Niger delta.
Oil thieves usually vandalise pipelines to siphon crude, which is then sold in barges to illegal buyers on the high seas.