An oil rig off the coast of Nigeria
An oil rig off the coast of Nigeria - 
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Bob Moon: One of the fastest growing criminal rackets in the world is plaguing the West African nation of Nigeria and the effects are being felt around the globe. Thieves are stealing millions of barrels of oil in the Niger Delta.

Today, Britain is offering the Nigerian government help to tackle the problem.

From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.

Stephen Beard: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown meets the Nigerian President today. Oil is at the top of the agenda. Brown is voicing concern about the daily loss of tons of oil in the Niger Delta.

This is highly desirable crude, the light, low sulfur product that's turned into diesel and gasoline. Armed insurgents steal up to half a million barrels of it a day and, says Simon Wardell of Global Insight, a further 350,000 barrels a day can be lost through disruption.

Simon Wardell: A lot of oil is shut in. In other words, it's production that could be produced but isn't because of either damage or risks to employees in the Niger Delta region from some of the militant groups there.

This lost production puts further upward pressure on the global price of crude. The British Prime Minister is offering military assistance in cracking down on the insurgents, but critics of the plan say this could be seen as a threat to Nigerian sovereignty.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.