Report from Financial Times correspondent at Lagos that the fresh threat to Dutch Shell's platforms and people in the mission-critical Niger Delta is unlike any previous cycle. Usually the gangs steal from the pipelines; the gangs grab a foreigner and ransom him back; the gangs demand protection money. But the new gang is called MEND, for the liberation of the Delta from the central government and the oil cartels, and it looks much more like a nationalist cadre than a shakedown crew. Is this the beginning of a Viet Cong with oil? Grabbing four engineers, from UK, U.S., Honduras and Bolivia, the MEND gang wants Ijaw sympathizers released from government jail and wants Shell to make a $1.5 billion downpayment to clean up the environment of the Delta.
Nigerian output is down near ten percent in less than a month. The Obasanjo government is confused and fractured. The 2007 election demands a new president. Will Obasanjo use a crisis to continue his clumsy, kleptocratic rule? Will Shell and Total and Agip find a fee that the MEND gang accept instead of power sharing in the Delta?