"ABUJA, March 9 (Reuters) - Nigeria must halt the growing violence and oil theft in its troubled delta region or risk major consequences for its national security and oil industry, a top U.S. defence official said on Wednesday.
"OPEC member Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, is the fifth largest supplier to the United States and has gained in strategic importance to Washington as its own oil production has declined sharply.
"But industry officials estimate up to 100,000 barrels a day of Nigeria's crude is stolen by armed gangs backed by powerful ethnic and political figures, who use the proceeds to build up their arsenals in an attempt to control access to oil facilities.
"Retired U.S. General Carlton Fulford, director of a U.S.-led international summit on oil and security being held in Nigeria, said gangs engaged in the theft of crude in the delta would have to be dealt with at the 'highest level'."
[Like BushCo, we're keeping our eyes on Africa's oil.]