2 Jun 2006
Eight offshore oil workers have been kidnapped aboard a drilling rig in the troubled Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The workers, six Britons, one American and one Canadian were reportedly seized during an early Friday (5 a.m) raid on the Bulford Dolphin oil platform by suspected militants fighting for the control of the region’s oil resources. The kidnapping reported June 2, is one in a series of skirmishes between the Nigerian government and oil companies on one hand and armed militants operating in the region on the other. The attackers reportedly arrived in boats, fired shots in the air before seizing the oil workers. At the time of filing this report, nobody had claimed responsibility. It was reported that work on the oilrig was immediately suspended after the incident.
A little over a month ago, militants had issued an ultimatum to foreign oil workers to leave Nigeria (see article: http://www.njeitimah-outlook.com/articles/article/3263422/47891.htm). Since then a couple of people have died in clashes with the militants including an American oil worker that was shot in his car on the way to work. The Lagos based This Day Newspaper reported (June 1) that gunmen suspected to be members of the Niger Delta Vigilante Group killed a soldier attached to the Joint Task Force, Operation Restore Hope. Headed by Brigadier General Elias Zamani, the task force was created by the Nigerian government to stop oil theft and maintain peace in the turbulent Niger Delta Region. The task force had last weekend invaded the tiny island of Okochiri in Okrika local government of Rivers State (located in the Niger Delta) in an apparent attempt to rid the area of militants. At least five militants were killed and ten taken into custody according to the army spokesman. The army also refuted the allegation that one of its men was killed.
The crisis of the Niger Delta has its origin partly in the contentious issue of revenue allocation in Nigeria. The region that produces over 90% of Nigeria’s oil revenue (main source of federal budget) has never produced a head of state for the 46 years of Nigeria’s post independence period. In Africa, it is generally the rule that those that hold political power determine where income from national resources should be spent. This is done in most cases without regard to fairness. Sensing that their chances of ever ruling Nigeria (and hence controlling the resources) are very slim, radical elements in the South have resorted to armed struggle for the control of oil revenues or at least to compel the central government to adopt a better revenue allocation formula as their only hope of ever having their fair share of the national cake.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and the world’s eighth oil exporter. It is estimated that the crisis has already caused Nigeria to lose about 25% of her oil production. With world oil prices hovering around $70 per barrel, the restiveness of the Niger Delta may only help to push up global oil prices.
Njei Moses Timah