Nigerian oil militants vow ceasefire in delta
Militants in Nigeria's southern Niger Delta, whose campaign of sabotage has sharply cut the country's oil output, announced a ceasefire on Sunday but stopped short of agreeing to participate in peace talks, Reuters reported.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) declared the ceasefire just days after one of its most daring attacks so far, which forced Royal Dutch Shell to halt output from its main Nigerian offshore oilfield, Bonga.
"Effective 12 midnight (2300 GMT) on Tuesday, June 24, MEND will be observing a unilateral ceasefire in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria until further notice," the group said in an e-mailed statement.
"We are respecting an appeal by the Niger Delta elders to give peace and dialogue another chance," it said.
The bombing of oil pipelines and kidnapping of oil workers by MEND -- mostly in the labyrinthine creeks of the Niger Delta -- have cut Nigeria's oil output by at least a fifth in recent years, helping drive world oil prices to record highs.
Oil Minister Odein Ajumogobia said on Sunday the world's eighth largest oil exporter was producing around 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) before the latest attacks, less than two thirds of its 3 million bpd installed output capacity.
The announcement by MEND -- a loose coalition of armed groups with an ill-defined leadership -- comes weeks before a peace summit called by President Umaru Yar'Adua's government.
Asked if the ceasefire meant it would take part in the summit, MEND repeated in an e-mail to Reuters that it would only do so if Henry Okah -- one of its suspected leaders who is on trial for treason and gun-running -- was allowed to attend.
No date has yet been announced for the summit and some analysts doubt it will achieve much given the fragmented nature of the militants and the lack of a cohesive strategy among Nigeria's federal, state and local governments.