Nigeria's armed forces claimed Monday to have uncovered a plot to target a Chevron oil facility and its pipelines in the Niger Delta.
"The Joint Task Force, Operation Restore Hope, has uncovered a plan by some suspected illegal oil bunkerers from the Benkrukru community in Delta State to attack Chevron's Abiteye flow station and blow up pipelines," it said.
In a statement, military spokesman Colonel Rabe Abubakar said the plot was laid bare by "intelligence reports". He also suggested a possible link with the seizure last month of 24 barges in Abiteye suspected of carrying stolen crude.
Chevron, a major international oil operator in Nigeria, accounts for 320,000 barrels per day of crude. But unrest in the Niger Delta has forced it to shut down some of its facilities.
Abubakar said the military is on maximum alert to repel attacks on the flow station, and advised local residents to discourage their children from being used as "foot soldiers" by potential attackers.
Since January 2006, attacks blamed on militants have cut Nigeria's oil output by more than one quarter. National oil production currently stands at around two million barrels a day -- down from 2.6 million barrels in 2006.