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[Dehai-WN] Africa-Confidential.com: NIGERIA-Oil cuts as Delta erupts

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2012 23:58:23 +0200

N <http://www.africa-confidential.com/browse-by-country/id/38/NIGERIA>
> Oil cuts as Delta erupts

27th March 2012

Piracy and militant attacks are cutting oil production in the Niger Delta as
the government struggles with northern insurgents

As the government contends with a Boko Haram militia determined to make the
north ungovernable, a new round of attacks has erupted in the oil-producing
Niger Delta. Apart from the financial damage of a new Delta crisis, it adds
to the government's credibility problem. As a government led by Niger
Deltans, it was expected to pacify and then start developing the region.

Addressing the ecological and socio-economic devastation in the Delta would
realistically take decades; local communities expect their government to
make palpable progress with investment and job programmes. There is little
sign of that happening: instead, local political feuds and vendettas are
being pursued with the help of militant groups. Some of the worst clashes
are between rival factions of the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP).

The latest violence there, in President
an> Goodluck Jonathan's political base, threatens the government's amnesty
deal with militants and costs the economy as much as a million barrels of
oil per day. Nigeria was producing some 2.7 mn. barrels per day in February,
compared with its potential of 3.7 mn. bpd. Industry sources say there's no
prospect of hitting 3.7 mn. bpd in the near future, mainly because of

Over half of production is now offshore and better protected from attack.
Now, the rise in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is also changing security
calculations at sea. Of current production, a further 140,000 bpd are lost
to elaborate schemes of bunkering and oil theft run by militant groups and
pirates, according to Royal Dutch Shell. For now, the biggest pressure is
around the onshore oil fields operated by Shell and Chevron. Offshore piracy
in the Gulf of Guinea is growing, posing risks to international shipping
along one of the continent's busiest routes. Small, agile gangs in
speedboats board vessels, raid them for oil and other cargo and move on (AC
Vol 52 No 21,
ta_militias_to_piracy> From Delta militias to piracy). Insurance premiums
are rising. Piracy is an international problem under investigation by the
United Nations (AC Vol 52 No 20,
ds_a_new_African_problem> The Security Council lands a new African problem).

No progress, no jobs
Piracy can be lucrative for criminals and impoverished young people locked
out of the official amnesty process for the rehabilitation of the
'stood-down' rebel fighters. These loiter in several large camps - three of
the largest being in Bayelsa - as part of job-creation schemes that never
lead to actual employment. The government pays gangland bosses well to
oversee the boys in the camps, yet roads and other infrastructure projects
do not materialise, leaving the reasons for the revolt unaddressed.

Piracy also gravely threatens the coastal environment, as shown in December
by the leak of about 40,000 barrels of oil from Shell's deepwater Bonga
facility, caused by a ruptured pipeline. Transferring oil between boats at
sea is even riskier. The impact on coastal communities of the Bonga spill -
fishermen report depleted catches and show the media oil-soaked nets - are
being assessed by Nigeria's National Oil Spills Detection and Response
Agency, which has taken a more robust view of Shell's role in the spill than
the parallel Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.

Growing piracy at sea seems to have encouraged more militant attacks in the
creeks and on land. The official amnesty for militants negotiated in 2009-10
fails to benefit most Delta residents, let alone ex-militants. Many of the
beneficiaries appear to be those who organised oil theft operations in
collusion with state officials. Less well-connected militants vent their
frustration. Some are openly breaking with the amnesty deal, others have
paid the price for defying the amnesty in the past year. Renegade 'General'
John Togo (AC Vol 51 No 25,
sty> The war against the amnesty &
l_his_enemies> General John Togo and all his enemies) died in May 2011 after
an aerial bombardment by the army's Joint Task Force (JTF) on the camp where
he was hiding, and his Niger-Delta Liberation Force was disbanded.

Militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta are
pushing Jonathan to act faster on amnesty. MEND Spokesman Jomo Gbomo claimed
responsibility for attacks in Bayelsa State and for the abduction on 28
February of the captain, engineer and a crew member from the Dutch MV Breeze
Clipper, anchored off Port Harcourt in Rivers State. These acts seem part of
a political drive to accelerate the demands of Delta radicals for more
resources and revenue.

United States Department of State cables from Abuja, released by WikiLeaks,
named two ex-Delta governors as sponsors of militancy since 2003. In 2007,
the disgraced former Governor
yeseigha> Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was convicted of corruption after being
pursued by Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to London,
where he skipped bail. Back home again, he was held to have served his time
already and was released from gaol within hours. Alamieyeseigha is
acknowledged as an elder statesman of Bayelsa politics and a godfather of
the PDP. His schemes failed to keep him in office and ex-Governor
Timipre Sylva may be pressing the President for a similar, comfortable exit

Flashpoint Bayelsa
The latest political flashpoint in the Delta is Jonathan's home state,
Bayelsa, where violence and crime regularly mix with politics. He was
Governor there until becoming Vice-President after the 2007 elections. After
months of political turmoil around polls for the Bayelsa state governorship,
an uneasy peace was finally shattered on 1 March. Shedrack Itokofuwei, alias
'Mammy Water', a notorious pirate of the Bayelsa creeks and shoreline who
hails from Azagbene in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, launched a
deadly attack in speedboats from his base in Forpoa against the JTF.

They intercepted a JTF convoy heading from Ogbia to Nembe in Brass, leaving
an officer believed to be Lieutenant Colonel Abubakar Malik dead, along with
three other servicemen. Soon after, four marine policemen were shot dead at
a checkpoint on Nembe's waterways. That same day, two Agip pipelines were
attacked and there were explosions in Brass and Southern Ijaw. The evening
before, north of Brass, there were explosions close to the JTF's Bayelsa
headquarters. The JTF claims it had found and killed Mammy but locals say
otherwise. Five large military operations to smoke him out failed when plans
were leaked. His gang is very much at large, we understand.

In February, Jonathan faced a dangerous split in the PDP in his home state.
Rival candidates fought it out for his old job: the party had deselected the
incumbent, Sylva, and passed over three other political heavyweights who
wanted to replace him (AC Vol 52 No 3,
nce> Bayelsa's fighting chance). Jonathan's own man, Henry Seriake Dickson,
was parachuted in and, unsurprisingly, won the governorship election on 13

Dickson is carrying out the customary purge of his predecessor's loyalists.
Bayelsa's Accountant General, Francis Okukoro, left his job on 6 March and,
unofficially, Dickson's office has briefed on corruption under Sylva. The
PDP Chairman in Southern Ijaw, Ben Foreman, had already been suspended for
'anti-party activity' and threats against political rivals. Southern Ijaw,
where Chevron is the main oil operator, has been a focus of armed militancy
and is Mammy Water's home turf.

Sylva is determined to retain a role in politics and business. His enemies
say he has a formidable shadow security structure, Famou Tambei ('hit and
remove it', AC Vol 51 No 24,
litias> All the President's militias), though it was officially disbanded
before November. He cannot look to his former gangland sponsors and allies
for support. Victor Ben Ebikabowei ('Gen. Boyloaf'), Eris Paul and Africanus
Ukparasia Tuwonwei have joined Jonathan's amnesty camp and enjoy official
largesse in Abuja. However, criminals such as Mammy, making their income
from international piracy, can enlist recruits for a resumption of wider
hostilities in the Delta, filling a void left by those who have been
co-opted. Delta-watchers with long memories will recall that the first wave
of violence in 2003 began with arms caches being handed over to gang leaders
Asari> Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and
Ateke Tom to rig elections.

These days, Asari lives a quieter life, commuting between Abuja and Cotonou,
Benin. After initial doubts about Jonathan's status as Delta President,
Asari is now a stout defender of the new order. He has even offered to
enlist a Delta army to defend the south against attack from Boko Haram and
their affiliates.


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Received on Tue Mar 27 2012 - 17:58:24 EDT
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