Niger rebels say disabled part of key oil pipeline

AFP , Tuesday 18 Jun 2024

Niger rebels fighting for the release of the country's democratically elected leader say they have disabled part of a crucial pipeline carrying crude oil to Benin.

oil pipeline
Shows a policeman walking past an oil pipeline that exploded after it was vandalized at Ilado beach village in Lagos, Nigeria. AFP

 

Vital to both the Nigerien and Beninese economies, the 2,000-kilometre-long (1,240-mile) pipeline has become the subject of a diplomatic spat between the two West African neighbours.

Since a military coup on July 26, Niger's president Mohamed Bazoum has been imprisoned at the presidential palace in the capital Niamey.

His overthrow prompted international condemnation and concern over the conditions of his detention.

The top court lifted his immunity Friday, paving the way for a possible trial on accusations of treason, financing terrorism and plotting to undermine the state.

Formed after Bazoum's ouster, the rebel Patriotic Liberation Front (FPL) said it had targeted the pipeline as a message to Niger's new military generals.

"On the night of June 16, the Patriotic Liberation Front carried out its threat by disabling an important section of the pipeline as a first warning to the junta in Niamey," it said in a statement on Monday.

FPL leader Mahamoud Sallah called on the Chinese company WAPCO and the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, which run the pipeline, to halt their funding to Niger's army regime.

In the statement, Sallah called for "the cancellation of the $400-million loan promised to the putschists."

"Failing this, all oil installations will be paralysed in the next few operations."

Already tense since the coup d'etat, relations between Benin and Niger have worsened in recent weeks.

Landlocked Niger needs the pipeline to export its crude from Benin's Atlantic port of Seme-Kpodji.

But under sanctions imposed by the West African bloc ECOWAS, Benin closed the border with its coup-hit neighbour.

It has since reopened its side of the border, but Niger's military rulers have refused to open theirs.

Facing domestic unrest over the high cost of living caused by the closure, Benin's President Patrice Talon has made the border's reopening a condition for loading Nigerien oil at Seme-Kpodji.

Niger accuses Benin of "violating agreements" by preventing its officials from accessing the loading of crude at the port, which it said must be carried out in the presence of Beninese, Nigerien and Chinese officials.

After the arrest of five Nigeriens at the port on June 7, Niger's military regime turned the pipeline's taps off.

Benin said they had entered the site illegally using fake WAPCO badges, claiming that two of the five were "agents" of the Niger junta.

Niger also accuses Benin of hosting "French bases" in the north of the country, with the aim of "training terrorists" -- charges both France and Benin deny.

Beside the rebels, the pipeline is also at risk from other violent groups.

On June 12, six Nigerien soldiers providing security detail were killed in the first-ever attack on the pipeline by "armed bandits" in the south, according to the Nigerien army.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

 
 
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