Power outages in Nigeria are likely to persist until May as oil and gas giant Shell struggles to repair a major facility damaged by militants.
Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited the Forcados Export Terminal in the southern Delta state over the weekend. The facility, which is run by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, known as the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, was subject to an attack in February when an underwater pipeline was hit by an explosion.
Inflows into the terminal and exports out were halted after the attack, taking one of the country’s energy hubs offline. Forcados has the capacity to export around 400,000 barrels per day, the Financial Times reported.
In a statement released on Sunday , Osinbajo said that the damage to Forcados affected around 40 percent of the West African country’s gas supply and was responsible for ongoing power shortages in Nigeria. Osinbajo urged Shell to do “whatever else can be done and do it as expeditiously as possible,” but the company’s current repair plan envisages that the facility will not be fully repaired until May at the earliest.
Attacks on oil and gas facilities in Nigeria have been increasing in recent months. Two of the four refineries owned by the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were temporarily closed in January due to supply problems caused by the attacks, which Nigerian power minister Babatunde Fashola said were costing the country $2.4 million per day at the time. One of the refineries has since reopened but attacks have continued, with three people killed in an explosion at a facility owned by Italian company ENI in March.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently vowed to deal with the “vandals and saboteurs” responsible for hitting oil pipelines “the way we dealt with Boko Haram,” a reference to the Nigerian military’s sustained offensive against the jihadi group.
Osinbajo reiterated the government’s intention to deal with the problem, saying that Buhari’s administration was considering the establishment of a “permanent pipeline security force” that would be “armed with sophisticated weapons to ensure we contain the vandalism and overhaul security.”
The Niger Delta was the site of a sustained militant campaign in the mid-2000s, when groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) kidnapped workers at oil facilities and destroyed pipelines in protest at what they saw as the unfair distribution of resources. At its peak, the militancy cut Nigeria’s oil production to 800,000 barrels per day—less than a third of the maximum 2.5 million barrels per day.
The recent spate of attacks came in the wake of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency issuing an arrest warrant for ex-MEND leader Government Ekpemupolo—known as Tompolo—in January on charges of theft and money laundering totaling more than 35 billion naira ($176 million), which he denies. Tompolo has also denied any links to the recent attacks but has yet to hand himself in to the Nigerian authorities.