Nigerian rebels warn FIFA

2009-06-15 09:46

Lagos - Rebels in Nigeria's restive Niger Delta said on Monday they had attacked a pumping station run by US oil giant Chevron and warned FIFA against letting Nigeria host the under-17 World Cup tournament.

Rebels of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) also threatened to extend their operations to other states in the oil-rich region.

The MEND statement said they had attacked the Abiteye flow station early on Monday, starting a massive fire that had destroyed it.

The group promised a major operation within the next eight weeks and, likening its operations to a hurricane, said it would be extending its actions beyond Delta state.

It would move "into the neighbouring states of Bayelsa and Rivers before passing through the remaining states of Ondo, Edo, and Akwa Ibom then finally head off-shore," said MEND.

And it added: "We will want to use this opportunity to advice FIFA to have a re-think about Nigeria hosting the under-17 World Cup tournament at this time, as the safety of international players and visitors cannot be guaranteed due to the current unrest."

Monday's operation was the latest in a series of MEND attacks on Niger Delta facilities run by the US oil giant, designed to demonstrate that a recent government crackdown in the region had had no effect on its ability to operate.

One attack alone in May cost Chevron 100 000 barrels a day in lost production.

MEND, which says it wants a fairer distribution of oil wealth to local people, reaffirmed its mission to bring oil production in the country to a halt.

"We hope that by the time the oil and gas exports come to zero, Nigeria will maintain those positions from the export of groundnut oil," it said.