Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- As the Nigerian government continues a two-pronged approach to resolve the two-week ethnic violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta, indications are that the crisis may have forced the closure of the Warri refinery, one of the country's four refineries.
Unconfirmed reports Thursday said the 125,000-barrels per day refinery located in the epicentre of the crisis between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri was shut down following the depletion of its crude oil stock.
Three multi-national oil-producing companies operating in the area - Shell, ChevronTexaco and TotaFinaElf - have closed their operations in recent times, effectively cutting off crude oil supply to the refinery.
It is not yet clear what effect the closure of the refinery, which was operating below capacity before the crisis, will have on the already-critical fuel supply situation in the country.
Nigeria, which imports refined petroleum products to supplement production from local refineries, has been in the throes of acute fuel scarcity in the past several weeks.
The country has also lost about 800,000 barrels per day, of its OPEC production quota of a little more than 2 million bpd, since the crisis started.
Though the latest crisis in the restive region was triggered by disagreement between the Ijaw and Itsekiri over political representation, it quickly assumed the old pattern of violence in the area, with armed Ijaw youths attacking oil installations and threatening oil workers over alleged neglect of oil-producing communities by the government and oil companies.
Apart from deploying troops to the area to help stabilise the situation, the government has also engaged the armed youths in talks to end the crisis.
Nigeria's Presidential Adviser on Petroleum Matters, Rilwanu Lukman, has expressed optimism that the crisis would be resolved soon.
"Our people are in the area talking to the people involved," he said in Abuja Wednesday, adding: "We're doing everything possible to normalise the situation as soon as possible.
" Lukman also confirmed that Nigeria's daily loss from the crisis had risen to 800,000 bpd.