Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Navy Battles Militants

A stand-off that lasted for over 30 minutes was said to have ensued when the naval officers noticed the sudden movement and the simultaneous opening of fire with automatic weapons by the rebels, and had to return fore for fire.

Even though they managed to kill one of the navy personnel, the rebels were curtailed and forced into hasty retreat, fleeing in different directions, by the men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) who sank one of the boats carrying 12 militants.

Spokesman of the JTF, Lt. Colonel Sagir Musa said the rebels’ aim was to destroy the facility and take the arms of the personnel there, but that they met them on red alert.

‘The militants attacked the facility and wanted to destroy it and disrupt production but were overwhelmed. We sank one of their boats; the attack failed. We however lost one personnel, but the facility is on and producing without disruption,’ Colonel Musa said.


Government Says Six Gunmen Killed

Nigerian security forces killed six unidentified gunmen in the oil-rich Niger Delta region and recovered weapons used by the attackers, a military spokesman said.

The assailants used six speedboats to stage a raid yesterday morning on a military installation near the Soku gas plant, about 15 miles west of Port Harcourt, Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the task force in charge of security in the region, said in an interview. A machine gun, three AK-47 assault rifles and one FN rifle were seized.

``The attack was aimed at crippling our position, taking away our arms and ammunition and damaging the gas plant,'' Musa said. ``Our men are in full control of the area. There is no cause for alarm.''

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and attacks by armed groups in the southern delta, which accounts for nearly all of the country's output, have cut more than 20 percent of exports since 2006. While groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, claim to be fighting for more local access to oil wealth, others kidnap oil workers for ransom.

In an attack in September, MEND said it destroyed parts of the Soku gas plant, which is owned by Royal Dutch Shell Plc. On Sept. 21, the group declared a cease-fire ``until further notice'' in the delta region.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Hostages Captured off Cameroon In Good Health

Ten oil workers taken hostage off Cameroon's coast are "in good health", the leader of the West African rebels who kidnapped the men told AFP Sunday.

"The hostages are in good health. They are being looked after and remain safe," said Ebi Dari, the chief of the Bakassi Freedom Fighters, over the phone, while adding the group had had no contact with Cameroon's government.

"They (the government) know what we want. We sent our demands three months ago and have received no response. We want to meet them. That's why we took hostages," he said.

On Saturday, Dari told AFP the rebel group had "changed its mind" about plans to kill the workers, saying they would keep them hostage "for a very long time."

The Bakassi Freedom Fighters, opposed to Cameroon's takeover of the Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria, had threatened on Friday to kill the hostages "one by one" unless the government agreed to reopen talks on the oil-rich territory's status.

They seized the 10 oil workers -- six French, one Franco-Senegalese, two Cameroonians and one Tunisian - in a pre-dawn pirate attack Friday on an industry support vessel working off the coast of Cameroon.

"We have not done this for money," said Dari. "People in Bakassi are suffering."
Neighbouring Nigeria ceded Bakassi to Cameroon in August after a ruling by the International Court of Justice brought to an end a 15-year dispute over the peninsula, including rights to its oil fields and fishing grounds.

The handover was completed peacefully, but some local groups opposed the change of sovereignty and threatened attacks.

The Bakassi Freedom Fighters, part of a shadowy group dubbed the Niger Delta Defence and Security Council, claimed responsibility in June and July for attacks that killed seven

Cameroonian troops and a local official.


Construction Worker Kidnapped

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Lebanese construction worker in the southern Nigerian oil industry hub of Port Harcourt on Monday, police and a private security source in the city said.

"A Lebanese was kidnapped by gunmen this morning but our men are on their trail," police spokeswoman Rita Inoma-Abbey said.

The security source said the man was employed by an engineering company which is working on a road project in the Choba suburb of Port Harcourt, the main city in the Niger Delta, which is home to Africa's biggest oil and gas industry.

The region has long been racked by insecurity, particularly since militants launched a campaign of violent sabotage against the oil industry two years ago to push for a greater share of the wealth generated by five decades of oil extraction.

Heavily-armed criminal gangs, funded by a lucrative trade in stolen oil, have taken advantage of the breakdown in law and order to stage robberies and kidnappings for ransom.

Several hundred foreigners have been seized since early 2006 but most have been released unharmed.


Shell Employees Kidnapped

Bayelsa State police command has commenced investigation into the alleged kidnap of two officials of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) along Okordia/Zarama road in the old Yenagoa local government area of the state.

The kidnapped officers were identified as Mr. Michael Obikaun and Mrs. Favour Dappah of the inspectorate division of the Anglo Dutch oil giant, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

According to a statement issued by the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Iniobong Ibokette (DSP), the kidnappers trailed the officials from Port Harcourt and finally swooped on them along the Okordia/Zarama road.

The kidnappers armed with dangerous weapons, were said to have shot indiscriminately into the air ostensibly to frighten away any would be intruder before whisking them away in a dark brown Mercedes Benz 190 E car to an unknown destination.

Vanguard reliably learnt that the kidnapped officials were on supervision of on-going electrification project at Okordia/Zarama community.

“The state command is making concerted efforts to track down the perpetrators of the heinous crime,” said the state police public relations officer.

Reacting to the development, the people of Okordia kingdom yesterday condemned the abduction of the SPDC supervisors executing the electrification project in the area.

The traditional ruler of the kingdom, King Richard Seibai in an interview with newsmen described the action as barbaric and anti-development especially at a time efforts are being made to provide sustainable development.

He pleaded with the state government to come to their aid and arrest the situation by bringing the culprits to book and promised to work with government to arrest the situation.

The king also appealed to government to deploy officers of the Joint Task Force to beef up security in the kingdom and for Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to prevail on its workers to return to site.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Children of Oil Worker Kidnapped in P.H.

Gunmen on Tuesday kidnapped two children of a Nigerian oil worker in Port Harcourt, the country's oil hub, the police said.Rivers state police spokesperson Rita Abbey said Chinonso and Uchechi Ajanaku were abducted on their way to school and taken to an unknown location.No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, the latest in recent months.Oil-rich Nigeria has seen a spate of kidnappings of local and foreign workers and relatives of prominent politicians in the past two years, often by criminal gangs seeking a ransom, but sometimes also for political ends.

Pirate Problem Persists

The United Nations has called for an international response to a growing threat from seaborne pirates attacking oil facilities, ships and towns on or around the coast of West Africa.
Western and other nations have already sent warships to fight the pirates threatening shipping off the Horn of Africa.

But on the other side of the continent, heavily-armed gunmen in fast launches have in the last year preyed on oil plants, oil and fishing boats and even coastal towns in a region grouping the main African suppliers of crude oil to the West and China.

Seaborne raiders initially focused on Nigeria's Niger Delta, where militants are battling the government over oil revenues. But more recently raiders have robbed banks and confronted security forces in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Benin.

"There is indeed a common threat in the Gulf of Guinea and there is a need for a collective response to that threat," Ambassador Said Djinnit, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative for West Africa, told Reuters.

In an interview late on Tuesday, Djinnit said the problem straddled both West and Central Africa, which share the Gulf of Guinea. He urged navies from the United States and Europe to help local security forces with training, patrol vessels and equipment.

"I believe there must also be a role for the U.N. at some point, in trying to mobilise the countries of the region and major stakeholders in facilitating a concerted, integrated approach," he added, speaking in Cape Verde on the sidelines of a West African conference on drug-trafficking.

He said criminal activity in the Gulf of Guinea had become intertwined with local insurgencies.
"Armed groups ... are perceived to be bandits initially, and then they start making some political claims ... so it's a new area where pirates, bandits essentially, have seen an opportunity in the prevailing insecurity, in the so-called marginalisation of some regions, and in conflict," he said.


He said the lawlessness was comparable with Somalia; the Sahel region encompassing northern Niger and Mali; and the region where the borders of Chad, Central African Republic and Cameroon meet.

Here too, local rebellions were enmeshed with widespread smuggling and the activities of highway bandits, known locally in French as "coupeurs de route".

Recent attacks by armed men in speedboats on soldiers in Cameroon's border peninsula of Bakassi, which was formally ceded by neighbouring Nigeria in August, have been claimed by little-known groups calling themselves the Niger Delta Defence and Security Council or the Bakassi Freedom Fighters.

Their commanders have said in public statements they are fighting for compensation for Nigerian fishermen and their families who say they are being forced to leave the peninsula, which is reported to have significant oil reserves.

But some security experts believe they could be marauding Nigerian oil militants carrying their guerrilla war from the creeks of the Niger Delta over the eastern border into Cameroon.

"The security problem in Bakassi is related to the security problem in the Niger Delta and the larger Gulf of Guinea," Djinnit added. He said a distinction should be made between real grievances over local governance issues and sheer banditry.

In late September, armed raiders, believed by Cameroon to have come from Nigeria, stormed ashore from speedboats under cover of darkness to blast their way into banks in the Cameroonian coastal town of Limbe. They killed one person, fought off soldiers and carried away cash.

Since then, Nigeria and Cameroon have pledged to cooperate to improve border security. The United States said last week it was providing Angola with ships, radar and intelligence to prevent it becoming a target of seaborne crime.

Nigeria has in the past contributed 18 percent of U.S. oil imports but that share has been reduced by Niger Delta violence. Experts say the Gulf of Guinea as a whole is expected to supply 25 percent of U.S. oil needs in coming years.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

News Blogger Detained in Abuja

A US-based Nigerian news blogger is being held without charge by Nigeria's secret service.
Jonathan Elendu was taken into custody on Saturday when he arrived in the capital, Abuja, on a family visit.

The State Security Service (SSS) has refused to allow his lawyers access to him and denied him a medical visit.

Elendureports.com is one of a number of diaspora-run "citizen reporting" websites about Nigeria and is known for publishing controversial stories.

According to Nigerian law anyone arrested must be charged in court within 48 hours, but correspondents say the rule is frequently broken.

The SSS told Mr Elendu's lawyer that Mr Elendu had not been "arrested", but "invited" for talks at their headquarters.

There haven't been many really controversial stories about the president on Elendureports.com in the last few months according to Lawyer Ugo Muoma

An SSS spokesman said he was being investigated for "acts of sedition", but refused to give details.

Spokesman Kene Chukwu also told the BBC that Mr Elendu's detention had followed legal rules.

"I am telling you all the legal rules were followed, and you have to accept it," Mr Chukwu said.

Mr Elendu's lawyer says he has not spoken to his client since his arrest.

"They have not pressed any charges and have not allowed anyone to see him," said Ugo Muoma.

He said he was filing papers in court to force the SSS to charge or release Mr Elendu.

Elendureports.com operates from Lansing in Michigan and publishes often controversial stories about Nigerian politicians, accusing some of them of corruption and other crimes.
Their stories are often based on anonymous sources.

President's son

Another US-based Nigerian news website, Saharareporters.com, quotes anonymous sources as saying Mr Elendu may have been arrested because of photographs it published a few months ago showing President Umaru Yar'Adua's son.

Elendureports.com once mistakenly reported that Mr Yar'Adua had died

The Saharareporters.com pictures, which caused a stir in the local media at the time, showed 13-year-old Musa Yar'Adua waving wads of money around and holding a policeman's gun.

But Saharareporters.com says Mr Elendu is not a member of their staff and has nothing to do with the photographs.

International media rights groups Reporters Without Borders has called for Mr Elendu's release.
"There haven't been many really controversial stories about the president on Elendureports.com in the last few months," said Mr Muoma.

During the election campaign in 2007, Elendureports.com claimed that Mr Yar'Adua had died during a medical trip to Germany.

Two foreign journalists have been detained and deported by the SSS for reporting in the politically sensitive oil-rich Niger Delta region over the last few months.

In September, six local reporters and media executives were detained and questioned after a television channel reported, after receiving a hoax e-mail, that the president planned to resign.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Pirates Seize Fishing Boats

Pirates still in action not in Somalia but in Nigeria, whose waters are considered to be the second most dangerous in the world after the ones of the Horn of Africa country. According to shipping company sources , the pirates, within a few hours, attacked and seized eight fishing boats in the open sea off the coast of the southern state of Bavelsa. They took a total of 96 members of the various crews as prisoners . Presently their fate is unknown. According to IMB (the International Maritime Bureau), the number of piracy episodes ascertained at a world level during the first six months of 2008 add up to at least 114, a little less than the 126 cases registered during the same period of last year. Since June though, there has been a further and remarkable increase in boarding attempts.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Navy Attacked

Gunmen in speedboats attacked Nigerian navy vessels guarding the country's main crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals on Wednesday, the Nigerian military and security sources said.

The attackers hit gunboats protecting Bonny Island in the Niger Delta, home to an LNG terminal whose exports make up close to 10 percent of world supply and to Nigeria's biggest crude oil export facility, operated by Royal Dutch Shell.

"The intention was likely to surprise our troops, capture arms, ammunition and if possible snatch our gunboat," Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the joint military taskforce in the delta, told Reuters.

He said six speedboats had attacked navy gunboats close to the LNG terminal but that the gunmen were repelled. A member of the taskforce was wounded and several of the attackers were killed when two of their boats were sunk, Musa said.

No group has claimed responsibility.

The strike in the very heart of Africa's biggest oil and gas industry is the first since the region's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), announced a ceasefire last month after a plea from elders.

The ceasefire followed six straight days of attacks in the eastern delta which forced Shell to warn it could not guarantee to meet oil export obligations from Bonny.

Industry executives say continued insecurity, as well as chronic funding problems hampering joint ventures with the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC), mean production is stagnating in the world's eighth-biggest exporter.

Nigeria's foreign minister said this week that oil output was down to 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), although the oil minister put the figure at 2 million bpd a few weeks earlier.


Militants in the Niger Delta have shut down around a fifth of Nigeria's oil production since early 2006 with a campaign of pipeline bombings and attacks on oil facilities, but the country's LNG exports have largely escaped the violence.

LNG is made by cooling and condensing gas to a liquid that is one six-hundredth its normal volume. It is shipped in special tankers to markets including Europe and the United States, and is generally considered more secure than oil exports.

Strong global demand for LNG as an alternative energy supply, particularly as volatile oil prices add to havoc in consumer economies, has heightened interest in Nigeria's gas reserves, estimated at 180 trillion cubic feet.

But insecurity is a major deterrent to new investment.

A worker in the Bonny LNG plant said he heard shooting which seemed to be less than half a kilometre from his living quarters. A private security source working in the oil industry said the assailants had fled into the narrow creeks around Bonny Island and that they may return for another strike.

Shell said it could not immediately confirm any details.

Bonny, in the southern Niger Delta, is home to Nigeria's only functioning LNG plant, controlled by a group of Western companies including Shell, Total and Eni unit Agip. State oil firm NNPC owns 49 percent.

It is also home to Nigeria's biggest single crude oil export terminal by volume, which is owned by SPDC, a joint venture in which Shell holds 30 percent and NNPC holds 55 percent. Local subsidiaries of Total and Agip hold the rest.


Dynamite, Arms Recovered

The Nigerian military said on Thursday it had recovered dynamite, arms and ammunition from gunmen who attacked navy vessels guarding the country's main crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals.

The attackers hit gunboats late on Wednesday guarding Bonny Island, home to an LNG terminal whose exports make up close to 10 percent of world supply and to Nigeria's biggest crude oil export facility, operated by Royal Dutch Shell.

"One general purpose machine gun, one AK-47 rifle, one sub-machine gun, assorted ammunition ... and some quantity of dynamite were recovered from the militants," said Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, a military spokesman in the Niger Delta.

The attack in the heart of Africa's biggest oil and gas industry was the first significant strike since the region's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), announced a ceasefire last month.

No group has claimed responsibility.

The LNG plant at Bonny is controlled by Western companies including Shell, Total and Eni unit Agip. State oil firm NNPC owns 49 percent.

Bonny is also home to Nigeria's biggest single crude oil export terminal by volume, which is owned by SPDC, a joint venture in which Shell holds 30 percent and NNPC holds 55 percent.
Local subsidiaries of Total and Agip hold the rest.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nigeria & Cameroon Pledge Cooperation on Border Security

Nigeria and Cameroon have agreed to work together to protect their land and sea border from attacks by militants and pirates and to fight illegal trafficking of arms, drugs, oil products and migrants.

Minutes seen by Reuters on Monday from a weekend meeting in Yaounde of a joint commission of the oil-producing Gulf of Guinea neighbours pledged closer security cooperation along their 1,700 km (1,062-mile) frontier, including joint patrols.

The 12-page document said the measures would seek to respond to "cross-border attacks by militants, illicit arms sales, illegal bunkering of petroleum products, contraband, incessant militant and pirate attacks both within territorial and international waters of the two countries, drugs and human trafficking, as well as activities of armed resistance groups".

Authorities in Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer, are fighting a war against Niger Delta militants who often use fast launches to attack army posts and oil installations, sometimes striking at ships and rigs far out to sea in the Gulf of Guinea.

Cameroon is worried about this violence spilling over into its own territory and the government announced on Sunday it was reinforcing security on its own 360 km (225-mile) Atlantic coastline by installing radar and stepping up military patrols.

This followed an attack on September 28 against the Cameroonian coastal town of Limbe in which armed raiders in speedboats stormed ashore and robbed four banks, killing one person.
In their talks, Cameroon and Nigeria agreed to set up a cross-border security body that would establish joint patrols, collaborate in sharing intelligence and investigating crime and undertake joint search and rescue operations if the need arose.

The attack on Limbe was at least the third sea-borne raid of its kind in less than a year on Gulf of Guinea neighbours of Nigeria. Equatorial Guinea and Benin had reported similar raids.


Speaking in Limbe on Sunday, Cameroon's prime minister, Ephraim Inoni, said the September 28 attack surprised the security forces, who he said were under-staffed and poorly equipped.
"That is why we have decided to create a maritime brigade in Limbe, increase the number of forces of law and order there, and to launch radar surveillance of our coastline," he said.

Last month's raiders on Limbe, described as "suspected pirates" by Cameroon state radio, shot dead a local driver and used explosives to blast their way into banks, seizing large sums of money. They barricaded roads into the town, repelled Cameroonian soldiers and shot up the local prefect's office.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Cameroon state radio said a sack marked "Port Harcourt Flour Mill Ltd" was left in one bank, suggesting the raiders could be from Nigeria's Niger Delta, where Port Harcourt is a main city.

In August, Nigeria formally handed over control to Cameroon of the oil-rich Bakassi border pensinsula in line with a 2002 International Court of Justice order.

About 50 people have been killed in violence in Bakassi in the past year, including attacks on Cameroonian soldiers.

Worried about insecurity, the navies of the United States and other Western countries have stepped up visits to the area.

The United States imports more than 15 percent of its oil needs from the Gulf of Guinea and this is expected to increase to more than 25 percent by 2015.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Five Filipino Hostages Released

Five Filipino workers kidnapped from an oil services vessel in southern Nigeria nine days ago have been released unharmed, a military spokesman said on Monday.

The Filipinos were seized on October 4 between the oil hub of Port Harcourt and Bonny in the Niger Delta by about a dozen gunmen. Security sources originally said six had been kidnapped, including the boat's captain and two engineers.

"They have been released," Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the military taskforce in the Niger Delta, said.

He had no further immediate details.

A security source in the region said the five Filipinos were safe and well and had been taken to the Philipinne embassy in the capital Abuja.

Hundreds of foreigners have been kidnapped in the Niger Delta, the heartland of Africa's biggest oil and gas industry, since militants launched a campaign of violence two years ago.

Almost all have been released unharmed. But the insecurity, including the bombing of pipelines and attacks on oil and gas plants, has cut Nigeria's oil production by around a fifth and forced some foreign firms to scale back their operations.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cholera Outbreak Reported in Kano State

A cholera outbreak has claimed 20 lives in northern Nigeria's Kano state in the last week, officials and residents said Saturday.

"We have received reports of a cholera outbreak in Rikadawa village in the last week where 20 lives have been lost with about 70 others hospitalised", Ibrahim Muazu, Madobi local government chairman, told AFP.

Residents of the 3,000-strong village, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Kano, said the oubreak started when they started drinking water from a river outside the village because three of the four boreholes in the village were spoilt.

"With the breakdown of three of the four boreholes in the village, we turned to the Kunza river as our source of water and since then we started noticing people falling sick with cholera," said 70-year-old Malam Alhaji Dauda, who lost five grandchildren in the last two days.

Muazu said he had sent personnel to assess the situation and fix the broken boreholes.
Last month about 100 people died of cholera in four northen states.

Cholera is an intestinal bacteria that causes serious diarrhoea and vomiting leading to dehydration. With a short incubation period, it can be fatal if not treated in time.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

MEND Cease Fire Threatened

The recent ceasefire by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), was yesterday threatened, following a alleged air raids by operatives of the Joint Military Taskforce on the camps of two militia groups, the Niger Delta Patriotic Force (NDPF) and the Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV).

This is coming few hours after the leadership of the Action Congress (AC) in Rivers State urged Nigerians to pray for the ceasefire called by MEND to be permanent, so as to allow for the continuation of on-going projects across the oil and gas region.

An online statement issued yesterday and signed by MEND spokesman Gbomo Jomo, and made available to Daily Champion alleged that an air raid was carried out by the Air Force arm of the JTF, saying it may provoke other militia groups into engaging in another 'unprecedented war along the creeks and waterways of the region."

The statement read in part: "About 1730 Hrs on Tuesday, September 23, 2008, the Nigerian military still seething with anger from the humiliating defeat in the six-day oil war, launched an unprovoked air assault on the camps of the Niger Delta Patriotic Force (NDPF) and Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV) in an attempt to destabilize the on-going ceasefire.

"The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) condemns this cowardly act and will not play into the hands of the military by retaliating and putting the peace process in jeopardy at this time. It is a well known fact that the Joint Task "Fraud" (JTF) is desperate to showcase its relevance as they will be quickly out of business in an atmosphere of peace.

"Like their cousins the Nigeria Police who stage spates of robberies whenever there is a public outcry for the removal of check points on the road, the military stages such attacks to hoodwink the state governors for additional funding. We also suspect that a peaceful Niger Delta is not beneficial to a section of the country who may want to alter the constitution again in the event that the President may resign due to his ailing health".

"Tropical Storm Vigilant, our heightened state of alert, is still on course and the military and oil companies will soon be hearing from us at the appropriate time. MEND can not vouch for the actions this group may take. We will however use this medium to notify the public on developments as they unfold".

But the Rivers State chapter of the AC through its publicity secretary, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, prayed that the ceasefire called by MEND lasts longer for the region to witness growth.

He said "We just pray that this cease-fire becomes permanent as no meaningful development can take place in war-like situation as the Niger Delta region has been turned into recently.

"With this development, the Federal Government has no further reason to delay moving the relevant machinery and personnel to Niger Delta to hasten the development of a region so wickedly neglected by the past Governments at the centre and the region.

"Julius Berger Plc should commence work immediately on its abandoned projects particularly the dualisation of East-West road that has become a death trap and the fly-over construction at Eleme Junction that means a lot to the people of Rivers State."

He said the period of peace should be used by the government to intensify job creation, revamping and reviving of our moribund industries, improving on our decaying infrastructure and showing signs that Rivers State belongs to all sons and daughters of Rivers State."

(Daily Champion)