Ogoni: Nigeria Attacks Force Shell Out
Various factions in Nigeria were close to achieving their aim of paralyzing oil production in the Niger Delta after Shell made a partial evacuation of 326 oil workers yesterday following attacks on its facilities by heavily-armed militants.
Shell acted after a speedboat attack on Sunday on one of its pumping stations off the port of Warri left an un-known number of people dead.
Its response to the fourth attack in five days alarmed international
oil markets, already jittery over the West’s nuclear stand-off with Iran.
Last Wednesday, four of its sub-contractors, including a Briton, were ab-ducted from a support vessel by unidentified gunmen.
Two days later a bomb wrecked one of its main pipelines carrying 106,000 barrels per day, about 10 per cent of Shell’s daily output.
The withdrawal, combined with threats by Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, to force up prices in response to threatened sanctions, forced oil prices up 93 cents to dollars 63.18 a barrel in early morning trade on the London markets. The price of the benchmark Brent North Sea crude for February delivery jumped 71 cents to dollars 62.97 per barrel.
Nigeria, the world’s eighth largest oil exporter, produces 2.4 million of barrels of oil per day. Most of its sweet, low-sulphur crude, which can be quickly refined and marketed, goes to the United States.
Nigerian soldiers fought pitched battles with dozens of bandana-wearing youths armed with AK47s as they poured off three speedboats and fought their way onto the Benisede flow station off Bayelsa state.
The Nigerian military refused to say how many soldiers and militants had been killed.
Local press reports and a security manager said that about 15 troops had been killed. Shell, by far the largest oil producer in Nigeria, confirmed that one employee, a cook, had died and another ten staff had been hospitalized. It said it had no plans to quit the Delta but refused to rule out further evacuations.
“Following the growing insecurity in the area, SPDC [Shell Petroleum Development Corporation] commenced evacuation of some personnel from Benisede and neighbouring flow stations [Opukushi, Ogbotobo and Tunu],” it said in a statement from its London headquarters.
It added that all four flow stations had already been closed because of the previous attack on the Trans Ramos pipeline and the decision to withdraw staff would have no new impact on production.
The hostages, who include an American, a Bulgarian and a Honduran, are being held at Bomadi Creek deep in the Delta, a patchwork of thick mangrove swamps ruled by warlords and their gangs, by a hitherto unknown group called the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).
MEND, which is demanding the immediate release of Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, an Ijaw warlord due to appear in court today on treason charges, said that all oil workers should leave the area.
“It must be clear that the Nigerian Government cannot protect your workers or assets. Leave our land now while you can or die in it,” the group said. “Our aim is to totally destroy the capacity of the Nigerian Government to export oil.
MEND is also demanding the release of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a former Bayelsa state governor who escaped from Britain last November where he had been arrested on suspicion of money laundering and embezzlement.
The Ijaw and Ogoni people who live in the Delta say they have
seen little benefit from years of oil exploitation which has destroyed fishing
and caused untold environmental damage.