Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - The Nigerian government is under intense pressure to stop militant attacks against oil installations owned by western companies. Recent attacks have led to a 10 percent drop in Nigeria's oil output and affected world oil prices.
But militants on Friday warned of "more sustained attacks."
In response, two oil workers' unions threatened to withdraw members from the main oil-producing Niger Delta region unless the government moves to improve security.
"It needs to be mentioned that if the restiveness and consequent harassment and violence on workers in the oil and gas industry persist, we shall not hesitate to withdraw our members in the various oil and gas companies operating in the region," the Nupeng and Pengassan unions said in a joint statement.
Earlier this week, a militant group known as Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta attacked a Royal Dutch Shell pumping station, prompting the withdrawal of 330 workers.
The militant group, together with another one known as the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, said they are fighting to give the local Ijaw people a greater share of the oil revenues.
"We want to stop the capacity of Nigeria to export oil," the groups said.
The groups are demanding compensation of $1.5 billion from the Shell oil company for pollution in the Niger Delta.
The groups also want the release of separatist leader Mujahid Dokubu Asari, the militant leader who led a bloody rebellion in the Delta in 2004 and is now being tried on treason charges.
When he appeared in court early Tuesday, Asari called the presiding judge a "stupid old man," and demanded that another judge be appointed to conduct the trial.
In a statement to the media, the oil workers' unions said 22 people had been killed since a militant attack on 11 January, when four western oil workers were kidnapped, including an American national, Patrick Arnold Landry, who is said to be "seriously ill."
In a recent telephone call to an international television network, Landry appealed to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to come to the hostages' rescue.
"We are in bad shape here, we really are," Landry was quoted as saying.
In a statement posted on its website, the militant group said the hostages are being treated well. It warned the government not to risk the lives of the hostages in a rescue "training" mission.
"It will be disastrous," the group warned.
The group however promised more attacks. "We will not relent in our pursuance of the survival of our people. We will carry out a series of very significant attacks very shortly."
President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration told local media Friday that it is "taking a tactical and peaceful approach" in an attempt to persuade the hostage-takers to release the men. A committee to negotiate the release of the hostages also was formed.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is also the biggest oil producer on this continent. It exports 2.5 million barrels of oil daily and provides the U.S with more than 5 percent of its oil requirements.
The nation's population is 50 percent Muslim and has more than 250 ethnic groups.
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