March 1, 2008 / 9:05 AM / 11 years ago

Nigeria oil hub targeted in night attack, one hurt

(Updates with police confirmation, previous ABUJA)

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, March 1 (Reuters) - Attackers armed with AK-47 rifles and dynamite blew up a police houseboat on Bonny Island, an oil and gas export hub in Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta, a police spokeswoman said on Saturday.

No oil and gas facilities were damaged. Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) has an oil export terminal at Bonny and the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas company has its installations there.

Ireju Barasua, a police spokeswoman in the Rivers state capital Port Harcourt, said the attackers blew up a marine police houseboat, torched some cars and also aimed explosives at the compound of the traditional ruler of Bonny. One man was seriously hurt.

The raid took place in the middle of the night near the main jetty on Bonny and the attackers fled in speedboats before dawn.

A security expert working for an oil major said the suspects were a local group that had recently written to state and federal authorities complaining that oil company funds meant for development of the region had been diverted by politicians.

The authorities had tried to negotiate with community chiefs to avert a crisis, but the attempt had failed and local youths had threatened attacks, the source said.

Such conflicts are frequent in the Niger Delta, home to Africa’s biggest oil industry which produces 2.1 million barrels per day.

Under corporate social responsibility programmes, oil firms provide funding for what they say are development programmes, but human rights activists say the money often gets used to pay off extortion racketeers, or is pocketed by politicians.

Competition for oil money has fuelled many local wars between communities in the delta and numerous revenge attacks on police and troops, seen as agents of a hostile state.

In some cases attacks are carried out by politically motivated rebels pressing for greater control of oil revenues by impoverished local communities.

But more often, raids are the work of criminal gangs involved in extortion rackets, turf wars with rival gangs or revenge attacks sponsored by politicians. (Reporting by Austin Ekeinde and Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Caroline Drees)

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