Wednesday, September 17, 2008



September 16 2008

Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has no plan to resign, his spokesman said today, responding to local media reports that he was planning to step down because of health problems.

“It is absolutely rubbish. There is no such thing. The president has not resigned and there is nothing like that in the offing,” said spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi.

The 57-year-old leader, known to have a chronic kidney problem, travelled to Saudi Arabia officially for a Muslim pilgrimage. But senior Nigerian officials and a medical source in Saudi Arabia said he had received treatment during the trip.

Mr Yar’Adua’s health has been a source of constant speculation in the Nigerian media and opposition politicians, among others, have voiced concern about whether he is fit enough to govern.

His victory in April 2007 polls has been challenged at the Supreme Court by his two main rivals.

Should he become unable to govern there could be a constitutional crisis in Africa’s leading oil producer.

His health was a source of concern even before he became president over a year ago. He had to be rushed to a hospital in Germany while he was campaigning in March last year, just weeks ahead of the presidential election.

He has since returned to Germany on several occasions for medical check-ups, the latest in April.

Meanwhile, Nigerian militants attacked two oil installations in the heaviest fighting in the Niger Delta in two years, security sources said on Tuesday.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), responsible for attacks that have cut a fifth of the OPEC member’s output since early 2006, attacked a Royal Dutch Shell oil pipeline and Chevron-operated oilfield. The oil market, focusing on the impact of the credit crisis on the global economy, has largely ignored the escalation in violence in the world’s eighth largest oil exporter. Prices on Tuesday traded at a seven-month low near $92 a barrel.

Shell confirmed one of its pipelines was sabotaged late Monday at Bakana in Rivers state, while Chevron said its idle Idama flow station was also attacked early Tuesday morning.

Militants have bombed pipelines, platforms, gas plants and oilfields, shutting up to 115,000 barrels per day of oil production in the last four days, government officials said. Senior oil officials estimated Africa’s top oil producer was currently pumping around 2.1 million bpd.

Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesman for the military task force in Rivers state, said the situation in the delta was under control.

In recent clashes

Some security sources in the oil industry estimate more than 100 people may have been killed in recent clashes, which have spread to at least nine villages in Rivers state.

But the military has repeatedly tried to play down the fighting. “There is nothing extraordinary about this. There is no increase in the military presence in the Niger Delta,” said defence spokesman Brigadier-General Mohammed Yusuf.