Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday vowed to restore stability to the oil-rich Niger delta.

He spoke two days after nine people were killed in an attack on
the offices of Italian energy company Agip SpA. The assailants sped
off in a speedboat after the attack.

“Those boys are just rascals,” Obasanjo told Dow Jones Newswires
on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting.

“Stability will be returned to the oil region.”
Earlier attacks the past month on platforms and pipelines have
killed dozens of soldiers and civilians and cut 10 percent of daily
oil output in the world’s eighth-largest oil exporter.

The delta, a Britain-sized swamp area with 20 million people, is
Nigeria’s oil-producing center.

For decades, it has harbored poverty, ethnic conflict and
competing demands by the area’s roughly 40 ethnic groups battling
for political power and oil wealth.

Militant attacks on oil facilities and kidnappings of foreign
workers have long been a fact of life in the Niger Delta, though
hostages have typically been freed safely for a fat ransom.

But militants, armed with military-type weaponry and sometimes
working together against the government, have become more ambitious
in their goals, more brazen in their efforts, analysts say.

Attacks against Nigerian oil facilities and foreign oil workers
are expected to rise in the months ahead as militants, better armed
and more determined than in years past, jostle for power and battle
the government ahead of presidential elections in 2007, according
to analysts.

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