Nigeria: Sabotage behind pipeline blast

Business Materials 19 July 2008 05:15 (UTC +04:00)

Nigerian military says sabotage by youths caused Eni oil pipeline explosion.

An explosion that destroyed an Eni SpA oil pipeline in Nigeria's restive southern oil region was caused by aggrieved youths from a nearby community, a military official said Friday, AP reported.

Col. Chris Musa, the head of the Bayelsa State military, said Thursday's blast was not an accident but "deliberate sabotage" by a group protesting the alleged nonpayment of fees by the energy company to the local population.

Nigeria's major militant group - the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta - had denied any involvement in the blast.

The pre-dawn explosion caused a sudden drop in pressure halting production on pipelines carrying 47,000 barrels of oil a day. The pipes are owned by Agip, a subsidiary of Italian energy company Eni.

Eni said on its Web site Thursday that the cause of the incident was unknown. Units had already been called in to start repairs, it said. Company officials said Friday they had no new information.

Musa said he did not know the extent of the damage to the pipeline and that investigations were under way to find those responsible. There were no casualties, he added.

Attacks on oil industry infrastructure in the past two years have slashed oil output by almost a quarter in Nigeria, Africa's top crude producer. The instability has helped push worldwide crude prices to historic highs.