Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Nigerian Militants Blow Up Three Pipelines, Take Four Americans Hostage

The guerilla war being fought by Nigerian rebels against the foreign exploitation of their oil reserves in the Niger Delta is the war the mainstream media barely mentions. But the Nigerian militants have been extremely effective in waging their campaign of 'terror' against the oil giants in their region, particularly in the past two years. They have a singular aim : to cripple the crude oil export industry of Nigeria.

They have kidnapped literally hundreds of foreign workers, releasing most unharmed, but they have also killed at least ten, perhaps many more. Official Nigerian government figures for the death tolls of foreign workers don't exist.

In the past year alone, the militants have staged dozens of attacks on pipelines used to get the oil to local refineries or to the coast for shipping out of Nigeria. Sometimes the attacks have shut down key pipelines for only a day or two, but sometimes these pipelines have been destroyed to the point where it has taken many weeks to get them back online, cutting off or slowing the production of millions of barrels of oil.

While the mainstream straight news seem relatively unconcerned about the Nigerian guerillas, it is in the financial papers that they grab the front page headlines. For each attack, and almost every outbreak of hostage taking, directly impacts on world oil prices. Even a threat of further attacks, after a successful bomb attack on a pipeline, can push up oil values.

Yesterday, Nigerian insurgents hit three key pipelines, and took at least four American workers hostage :
...the attack has increased Nigeria’s oil production loss to 844,000 barrels per day, or 28 per cent of the nation’s output.

Eni said it had been forced to shut in 150,000 barrels per day of oil production feeding Brass Export Terminal.

Oil rebounded to $65 a barrel yesterday as fresh attacks on Nigeria’s oil industry deepened supply losses and interrupted a six-day losing streak that had driven prices to their lowest since March 26.

Olivier Jakob, an analyst at Swiss-based Petro-matrix, said developments in Nigeria were the market’s main focus.

In a statement to the Nigerian Tribune, the militants promised to “continue indefinitely with attacks on all pipelines, platforms and support vessels.”

From the Washington Post :
Militants in Nigeria's volatile oil-producing region destroyed three pipelines in raids early Tuesday as part of what they said would be a rising campaign of destruction leading up to the inauguration of the nation's new president on May 29.

Political protests against the election of Umaru Yar'Adua have fizzled in Nigeria since he won the presidency on April 21 in a vote that observers said was profoundly flawed nationwide and, in many places, simply rigged.

"We are trying to send a warning to the incoming administration to chart a different course from that taken by Obasanjo," a militant spokesman who called himself Jomo Gbomo wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post on Tuesday.

"We want them to realize the futility of military means as a solution to the unrest in the delta, exposing at the same time, the helplessness of the Obasanjo government."

Gbomo, whose real name could not be to speak for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, a loose coalition of groups that have used car bombs, kidnappings and attacks on pipelines and pumping stations to draw attention to their demands.

Attacks on Royal Dutch Shell oil fields in February forced the closure of facilities pumping 500,000 barrels per day.

In one of several e-mails Gbomo sent on Tuesday, he wrote that more pipeline attacks are planned over the next several days. "In the next few months we hope to halt Nigerian [oil] exports altogether," he said.

Nigeria's oil production, which at full capacity reaches 2.5 million barrels per day, comes mainly from a sprawling, impoverished coastal region with few roads, schools or hospitals. Much of the region is reachable only by boats that traverse the tangled network of rivers and mangrove swamps where thousands of miles of unguarded pipelines carry billions of dollars of oil out to waiting ships. Substantial production also occurs offshore.
From UPI :
Gunmen in Nigeria seized four American oil workers from a construction barge off the coast of the Niger Delta, an oil company official said Wednesday.

Chevron spokesman Femi Odumabo told CNN the abducted workers were U.S. nationals working for a Chevron subcontractor, Global Industries Ltd. They were abducted as they laid pipes at an oil field, he said.

The abduction occurred hours after 11 Korean and Filipino workers abducted at gunpoint last week were freed, the BBC reported.

Nearly 100 foreigners have been kidnapped in the region, and militants said Monday they had destroyed three pipelines in Bayelsa State. The militants are fighting for a bigger share of the oil revenues in the oil-rich region.