Quasi-News & Commentary

by Wordworks2001

The 16 day lull in militant operations against oil facilities in the Niger Delta ended abruptly on December 7, when the Brass River Oil Terminal was attacked at dawn (0615 hrs, local) by an unknown force of gunmen. A Nigerian worker and two youths were reported killed in the fire fight that ensued. Four expatriate employees of ENI, the giant Italian energy corporation were taken hostage.

Three of the hostages are Italian nationals and the fourth is from Lebanon. The names of the individuals as reported on the ENI website are: Francesco Arena, the facility’s manager, Cosmo Russo and Robert Dieghi, contractors working at the terminal, and S. Imad, from the catering company that services the Brass River terminal.

The attackers were wearing military style camouflage uniforms. They arrived in as many as seven speedboats. The dead were said to be bystanders, not employees of the terminal nor members of the militants. There were no repoorts of injuries, but several vehicles, as many as 12, were burned.

While no militant organization has yet to take responsibility for this latest attack, there is much speculation that it had more too doo with the upcoming People’s Democratic Party primary elections on December 16 than the ongoing effort to force the Nigerian government and multinational oil companies to give the indigenes of the region more of the revenues derrived from the oil industry.

Oil makes up 80 percent of Nigeria’s gross income. The actions against oil companies and the expatriates that work for them began in earnest in January 2006 when the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta’s (MEND) began performing kidnappings and destroying oil company facilities. Nigeria’s output of crude oil has dropped by about 25% in the past 11 months.

Communities in which the oil terminal, pumping stations and pipelines are located have also increased their pressure on the companies by kidnapping expatriates in order to get financial or economic concessions from the oil companies for using their lands. These include, ransoms, protection money schemes, and projects to build up the infrastructure of the village.

Most hostages are carefully cared for and safely returned when the abductors are paid. Occassionally, as in the last incident before this one, a hostage loses his life after being caaught in the cross-fire between abductor and would-be rescuer. It is feared the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. The 2007 presidential and gubenatorial elections are still four months away.

LINKS

The Independent (UK)

Reuters (UK)

ENI Website

Wordworks2001 is a retired US Army master sergeant who lives in Indiana and works in Nigeria. He blogs at http://wordworks2001.blogspot.com

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