If the spring was known for its “firsts,” then July and August must be considered the months of the copycats. The kidnapping of expatriate oil workers had long been a practice among villagers that had oil rigs or construction barges from the big multinational companies working near them. Now it became a tool for obtaining money to fund a rebellion in the swamps. This novel new way of collecting cash from the big oil companies was about to catch fire. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta was about to become extremely flattered.
Abductions became so commonplace that Oyibos On Line developed their own line of T-Shirts with snappy sayings on the front. Jokes were made about appointing some workers “designated hostages.” After all, those who had been abducted to date had been relatively well treated, in fact many were treated with deep respect. One hostage was 69-years old. The militants called him Papa and released him on his birthday in very good condition.
But things got a bit rougher in July and August, especially for Nigerian law enforcement officials:
- On July 6, a Dutch expatriate from from a dredging vessel at the Gbaran Ubie site in Yenegoa was kidnapped. He was held for five days.
- Clashes between Movement for the Acualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and security officials left eight members of the group dead. The government denied the account.
- Gov. Peter Odili, the popular head of Rivers State was not at home when a would-be assassine attacked his compound with a crude dynamite bomb. No one was injured. A previously unknown group, the Grand Alliance of the Niger Delta (GAND), took credit for that and several similar attacks in recent weeks. GAND sought an increase in the use of oil revenues to benefit the impoverished people of Rivers State and demand an end to political corruption. Odili is a major contender for the presidential candidacy of Nigeria’s largest political party, the People’s Democratic Party.
- A pair of pipelines that fed the Brass River crude oil terminal in Bayelsa State temporarily halted the flow of 200,000 barrels of oil a day to the facility.
- The same night, a convoy of Chevron boats passing nearby came under attack. No injuries were reported.
- Seventeen police officers were wounded and two killed when a group wearing military camouflage uniforms and bullet proof vests attacked a police station in Nniei, Anambra State. Fourteen prisoners were released and the police station was burned to the ground. Two of the militants died in the attack and witnesses reported that some members of the group were waving MASSOB flags. Authorities claimed they thought the attack was committed by hoodlums and that the flags were a ruse too throw them off the trail.
- MEND accused ChevronTexaco of using Nigerian military to attack Ijaw villages in the Niger Delta. It claimed a plot had been uncovered to attack the community of Gbaramatu. MEND claimed it would avenge any attacks against Ijaw villages and said it planned “all out war,” not just in the western portion of the delta but in the entire delta oil producing region.
- Local youth who claimed the Italian oil company, Agip, failed to implement a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the company and the community, took over the Ogbainbiri pumping station. They held 16 Agip employees hostage. The government finally paid off the youths holding the station. The admission of payment was most unusual for the Nigerian government to admit.
- A German expatriate was abducted from School Rd., near the Amadi Ama roundabout, in Port Harcourt. He was on his way to work for Bilfinger and Berger,constructors. The MONDP claimed responsibility and the hostage was held 14 days.
- Three Filipino nationals who worked on Bonny Island were abducted two days after the German. Militants in speedboats ran to the road side by Monkey village and snatched the three at “rush hour.” They were held for 10 days by what was believed to be a disgruntled community group.
- Two Ukranian and two Norwegian marine workers from Trico Marine Services were abducted at sea from an offshore supply vessel. They were released a week later by the community youths who abducted them.
- A Belgian and a Morrocan oil field worker were taken from their car in the morning while going to work, by four armed men in army fatigues. They were held 10 days.
- A Lebanese expatriate working for Homan Engineering was abducted by men in a bus. The kidnappers were disguised as army officers. The Niger Delta Enlightenment and Expedition Force, a formerly unknown group, took credit for hsi abduction. He was released 15 days later.
- Four expatriates were abducted from Goodfella’s Bar in Port Harcourt. This marked the first kidnapping from a commercial establishment and marked a turning point for the social lives of expatriates living in that city. The men were taken from the bar at 22:35 by heavily armed men in camouflage. They were released after 10 days.
- President Obasanjo announced the military would step up its efforts in the Niger Delta and threatened unspecified action against any company that paid a ransom.
- MEND kidnapped an Italian expatriate from outside Saipem compound near Aker base. One soldier was killed and one soldier and two militants wounded in heavy gunfire. Unconfirmed reports said the men were drinking at a bush bar called ‘Carols’ outside the compound. The attackers came in two vehicles, blocked them, shot the army sergeant and took the Italian hostage.
- A fire broke out at Shell’s Yorla Wellhead B in the Kpean Community of Khana, Local Government, Rivers State. The fire continued raging into the fall.
- Due to the scarcity of jet fuel,international flights in to the Murta Mohammed International Airport in Lagos were diverted to neighboring countries. Nigeria is the fifth largest producer of rude oil in the world.
- A Nigerian oil field worker who had been kidnapped some time before was tragically killed when government forces attacked the MEND speedboat transporting him to freedom.
- On the 8th of September, at around 11.30 pm, there was an attempt to abduct an expatriate from outside Goodfella’s Bar. An inebriated Expat came out of Goodfella’s looking for his car, which was not around, as he phoned for the driver a white van pulled up and 3 people (at least one with gun) tried to bundle him into the van. Fortunately, one of the bouncers at Goodfellas managed to pull the man back and away from the kidnappers and put him in the back of his car which had just arrived, the driver drove away with the expat. The other bouncers had arrived on the scene by this time and the kidnappers jumped into the van and drove away.
September was surprisingly quiet, save for the three events described above. October started out that way too, but as you will see tomorrow, things didn’t stay so placid through December.
Wordworks2001 is a retired US Army master sergeant who lives in Indiana and works in Nigeria. He blogs at Wordworks2001