The militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) that has waged a month long campaign of sabotage against the oil industry has again called for Royal Dutch Shell to pay $1.5 billion in pollution compensation to affected villages in the Niger Delta or make a firm commitment of its desire to pay immediately.

In an email the group said: "When this is done, we will still not halt our attacks, but concentrate less on Shell and spread our attacks evenly between the companies operating in Nigeria."

Meanwhile the NUPENG and PENGASSAN oil workers' unions issued a joint statement warning they would withdraw their  workers if the government failed to control violence.

The statement said: "It needs be mentioned that if the restiveness and consequent harassment and violence on workers in the oil and gas industry persist, we shall not hesitate to withdraw our members in the various oil and gas companies operating in the region."

'One too many'

The unions said that 22 people have been killed since 11 January when militants kidnapped four foreign oilmen at a Shell oilfield and sabotaged pipelines. 

"...we will still not halt our attacks, but concentrate less on Shell"

Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta

"Our attention has been drawn to the violence being unleashed by a militia group in the Niger Delta on our members, leading to the loss of 22 lives, the taking of oil workers as hostages and the shutting down of a flowstation in Benisede in Bayelsa State," they said.

Describing the recent rampage as "one too many", the unions called on government, at all levels, to urgently address the problems with a view to amicably resolving them.

"This call has become necessary because the workers are always the first target of youths' aggression in the region," they said.

The unions urged the government to employ peaceful means to secure the release of the abducted oil workers to ensure their safety.

Militant warning

Nigeria records an output of 
2.6 million barrels of oil daily

The email statement for MEND was signed by the previously unknown "Jomo Gbomo" and gave details of the captives' conditions.

It said: "The hostages are however being treated as well as we possibly can but they must live under the same conditions we have been subjected to for the last 48 years."

The group also warned the government "not to use the lives of these foreigners for training in hostage rescue. It will be disastrous."

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell, Nigeria's biggest producer and so far the main target of the attacks, has been forced to cut output by 211,000 barrels of crude per day since the crisis began, some eight percent of Nigeria's daily output of 2.6 million barrels.

The Nigerian unrest has also combined with tensions over Iran's nuclear programme to push oil prices to near four-month peaks.