Saturday, February 18, 2006



By DP Mason

Shell Oil facilities in Niger have been attacked by Ijaw guerillas, cutting crude oil supplies to the world market by 15 percent.

The militia's of the Niger Delta's independence movement continues to wreak havoc on world oil markets with each successful attack, and as a result draw international media attention to their movement and to the monolopous 'rule' that international oil companies maintain over African tribes and their homelands.

Yesterday, the guerillas are claimed to have attacked a barge, blown up a pipeline, abducted US and British workers, torched an offshore platform used for loading crude oil onto international tankers, and engaged the government's security forces in armed battles.

The militias attacked the barge from four speed boats and have warned they are planning to ramp up their war on the oil industry, following airstrikes where the Niger government used helicopters to attack illegal barges militias were using to smuggle oil out of the area.

With a barrel of oil selling internationally for $60 to $70, almost triple the price three years ago, oil smuggling is a vastly profitable enterprise for independence movement militias, even when blackmarket prices might only be 20% of the international value.

The Niger government has announced it will enter negotiations with the kidnappers to have the workers freed, much to the chagrin of the US State Department, who regard such attacks on US-interest oil industry assets anywhere in the world as acts of terrorism, but they have not demanded the Niger government to cease such negotiations. The US government may not directly negotiate with terorrists, as it continually claims, but it will quietly allow other governments to negotiate on their behalf.

No recgonised militia organisation has thus far claimed responsibility for the attack or kidnappings, though a statement was issued which read, in part, "These individuals and facilities were well guarded by a large number of soldiers who resisted for an embarrassingly short period before escaping to ensure their personal safeties."

In the past month alone, militias have kidnapped dozens of international workers (most released unharmed), have attacked more than a dozen oil facilities, blown up at least one major pipeline and killed some 22 soldiers and police in gun battles.

The Niger Delta covers some 70 thousand square kilometres of mangroves and swampland. The area is home to Africa's largest oil industry.

More than 14 million indigenous people of the Ijaw tribe call the Niger Delta home. The independence movement grows stronger by the month, and such attacks on foreign owned oil companies in Niger are strengthening the movement's calls for independent rule.