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Niger delta: Resource war or racket?

February 17, 2009

Nigeria’s main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has not so far carried out any major attacks on the country’s oil and gas industry since announcing last month it was ending a five-month-old ceasefire. But the level of insecurity in the vast wetlands region is so great that the industry is feeling the pinch nonetheless. Royal Dutch Shell, Nigeria’s longest-standing foreign oil partner, has warned that “logistical challenges” caused by the insecurity mean it may not meet all of its oil export obligations for this month and next from its key Bonny export facility. Shipping agents and industry sources say security measures at loading platforms mean shipments of crude are being delayed, while some smaller oil services firms have started openly questioning whether to scale back their presence in Nigeria because of high levels of piracy.

On Tuesday, gunmen loyal to militant leader “Kitikata” opened fire on Shell facilities in Bayelsa state. They delivered a letter to the security guards at the site demanding they be given a contract to guard facilities at Nembe Creek, a hotspot for criminal raids, or else they would carry out further attacks.

Given that the militants, based in camps deep in the delta’s swamps, appear to be split into factions often working in an un-coordinated way, and given that many of the attacks are opportunistic acts of pure criminality – kidnappings for ransom or the theft of vessels – what should the security forces do to restore order? Is this violence really still motivated by a struggle for the development of the Niger Delta, or has it become a lucrative criminal racket? Do the oil companies have a responsibility to help police the region, and if so how? If a diplomatic solution is the preferable approach, which militant groups or faction leaders should be brought to the negotiating table? And if they do sit down to talk, what should be done to deal with the criminal gangs who act with no political ideology?


My brother Capt Robin Barry Hughes has been kidnapped and held hostage by M.E.N.D for 165days – over 5 months to date.
M.E.N.D keep changing their statements as to what they want before he is released, they even made a statement last week that one of the British hostages was very sick, what do they think this is doing to them and the family we are worried sick. These are inoccent men just doing a job to lookafter their familys, they are not political men nor company directors just ordenairy people, if they belive this strongly about the situation in their country they should be giving their lives to change it not takeing the lives of other inoccent people.

Lets please show some support to get these hostages realesed my brother is 60 years old and we lost our Mother 2 days before the kidnaping – please this enough!

Posted by Simon Hughes | Report as abusive

Regarding Capt Robin Barry Hughes, a wrong has been done in this region and now another wrong is being done to correct it. There isn’t much I can do about that but hope that you get your brother and his crew back safe and sound.

On the story however this is still a resource war and if there is any racket going on it is being done by the oil services. If with all these years of fighting, the investment is still worth it, someone is making quite some profit behind these people’s backs.

Truth be told, the rebelling young men cannot profit from the resource without shell and its counterparts. On the other hand the oil services have been there for years and in that time they have failed to train the local populace for possible jobs in the field.

I really hope that those oil pits dry up pretty quickly… then maybe in the search for another means of survival all this raw energy and will can come up with something positive.

Posted by Didi | Report as abusive

Having spent many years in the Delta, its time to put things into persepective and get readers off the bulls**t drip feed some of the worlds/local press keeps churning out about the Delta & its groups of armed individuals, (who are hardly apprended or prosecuted),clearly first off its a law and order issue, the responsibility of the host governments and their agents, the passing of the buck to private organisations needs to stop, + lets see one shred of evidence were these gangs have benifited their communities by way of facilities etc – NONE. The host government needs to stop chattering and start serious development in the region not just centered on the Oil & Gas industry. Further the criminal gangs will always attract unemployed youth with no prospects or education, therefore a concentrated effort needs to be made to bring an end to this misery created by kidnapping and armed aggression, the people with nothing suffer the most, the people who travel in to work suffer equaly, including all their families. As Simon Hughes says this is enough, for all expat and nationals alike. Those groups/individuals who want change and clearly its needed should try and seek redress via democratic methods which will eventualy gain support.


Good question. A lot of this boils down to the corrupt and untransparent way the oil companies contract work out to service companies, and this is all now getting tangled in the wider political cobweb that has ensnared the delta. The big oil companies do not do enough due diligence on their servicing contractors, and it has come to light on more than one occasion that Big Oil has given out contracts for pipeline repair work to front companies held by the very same individuals who undertake to blow up pipelines. Why? Because the industry is rotting from corruption on the inside, where contract managers become kings. Senior management seem reluctant to deal with this problem for fear that it will literally blow up in their faces. On the other hand it is unfair to put all the weight of blame on the oil companies, given that this kind of corruption and extortion is a byproduct of the creation of militia by the political elite in Nigeria to rig elections in the oil rich states of the delta. It is perfectly logical, from the militants point of view, to engage in this kind of extortion when the entire political system has been set up as an extortion racket. The best way to “police” the delta therefore would be start with government and the oil industry cleaning up their own acts. Only once this has been achieved can the use of force really be something that can be applied without the risk of being manipulated by corrupt forces, usually resulting in dead civilians and pointlessly razed communities. Countries that consume Nigerian oil should be careful about what kind of help they give Nigeria to secure their supplies. Gordon Brown is an absolute idiot for suggesting Britain could help train Nigerian forces or whatever meaningless drivel he spouted on Nigeria.

Posted by brontosaurus | Report as abusive

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