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Crude tactics in the Niger delta

Salil Tripathi, Guardian
Abduction, theft and violence are the order of the day in Nigeria as armed groups take the country’s liquid wealth into their own hands, writes Salil Tripathi
…This week’s attack is not the first one on oil workers – only last month, four expatriate workers working for a subcontractor of Shell were abducted. Nor will it be the last.

Some of the big oil companies operating in the Niger Delta, which include Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Total and Agip, have reduced their staff and closed some operations. There has been a 10% drop in production.

Shell struck oil in Oloibiri 50 years ago, promising prosperity to Africa’s largest nation. Oil now accounts for 98% of Nigeria’s exports, and those revenues account for some 80% of the country’s budget. In these 50 years, Nigerian production has risen to make the country not only Africa’s largest oil producer but the eighth-largest in the world (and the fifth-largest within OPEC, the oil producers’ cartel). In theory, this should have meant a contribution of billions of dollars to the Nigerian treasury. The country could have reached the development indicators of somewhere such as Indonesia – also an OPEC member and also under a dictatorship until 1998.

Instead, today, nearly 70% of the people in the Niger delta survive on less than a dollar a day, a benchmark many economists use to describe absolute poverty.

The far-flung communities of the delta have little access to functioning schools, only intermittent electricity supply – if any – and are dependent on the giant oil companies around them for some basic necessities such as water (which the companies are under no obligation to provide).
(23 February 2006)
Background article.

Niger Delta: the gathering storm of war

Emma Amaize and Paul Bebenimibo, Lago Vanguard
… Not a few Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when the hostage takers released the four "Bayelsa" hostages, last month. The question many are asking is why was a similar incident allowed to occur again? The Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger-Delta, headed by Brigadier General Elias Zamani believes that it is the insatiable taste of the Ijaw militants for violence, while the militants lay the blame squarely on the doorstep of the JTF.

Whichever way one looks at it, it is shameful that another hostage taking is occurring so soon in the Niger-Delta when the January incident should have been used to close such inglorious chapter in the country. Undoubtedly, the MEND released the four hostages unconditionally, last month and stated the conditions that could make it launch another operation, tagged "Operation Dark February", yet adequate precautions were not taken.

What is becoming evident in the management of the kidnap saga so far in the Niger Delta, which in itself is not a new enlargement, is that the Nigerian government has not really learnt its lessons or found a solution to the problem in the region.
(22 February 2006)

The 21st century threat: global energy terrorism

Dan Crawford, Power Struggle
As Canada becomes the key to America’s energy security, we remain woefully unprepared for the kind of sabotage that role might expose us to.
A report on the "Top 10 Financial Risks" was released by Goldman Sachs on February 9th. The report itself was drawn from a survey held at a conference in September 2005 with over 250 participants from the business community. The results showed that the number one concern (at 80%) was world oil supply, demand for oil and price of oil. Followed at 66% was the threat of global terrorism.

Missing was the combination of these two concerns, a threat which is slowly becoming the greatest possible one to our energy dependent society: global energy terrorism.

Occurrences of this type of terrorism are slowly taking place globally. Georgia and Armenia are the most recent examples, although questions still remain as to who was responsible for the sabotage of their pipeline and electricity tower.

The effectiveness of these attacks which took place on January 22, 2006, cut the countries off from their natural gas supplies and electricity for over a week, all at a time when both countries were experiencing a dramatic cold snap. Thousands of people went without heat and electricity during these sub-zero temperatures.

Nigeria and Ecuador are other examples where insurgents are sabotaging the energy industries in their own countries as a means of protest.
(16 February 2006)
Other sites with a similar theme: Global Guerrillas by John Rob, and Theory of Power (Jeff Vail).

S.Africa energy crisis may hit investment

Gordon Bell, Reuters
CAPE TOWN – Parts of Cape Town, South Africa’s top tourist city, suffered power outages for the third day running on Tuesday as Africa’s biggest economy strains under creaking electricity infrastructure.

The energy crisis, which has also hit financial and industrial hub Johannesburg, could damage investment prospects, hampering efforts to lift annual economic growth above 6 percent and slash stubbornly high unemployment, analysts say.
(21 February 2006)

Ecuador reaches truce with oil protesters

Associated Press via CNN
QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador’s military and Napo province officials brokered a truce early Thursday, bringing a temporary end to violent protests that have interrupted the flow of crude in the nation’s two main oil pipelines.
(23 February 2006)

Bush advisers urge veto of oil company tax break cuts

Reuters via CNN
WASHINGTON – President Bush’s advisers would recommend he veto tax legislation if it curtails an oil industry tax break, Treasury Secretary John Snow said in a letter to a leading lawmakers Thursday.
(23 February 2006)