Ivory Coast: August 31, 2003


Oil, more than chocolate, is becoming the driving economic factor for the Ivory Coast. The Nigerians announced the arrest of several executives of the Ocean and Oil company in Lagos, as part of the on-going crackdown on the theft and sale of Nigeria crude oil. The Nigerians can be quite Kafkaesque, since some officials from other oil companies were detained for several hours (and in some cases, several days) without their alleged offences being made known to them.

In addition to smuggling the crude out on small ships, an estimated 130 trucks (usually with a total capacity of 30 tons) were leaving Port Harcourt every night with crude to Ivorian factories. After the Ivorian oil men had been made aware of this on 6 August 2003, they refused to allow three Nigerian tankers to offload.

Nigeria and the Ivory Coast signed an agreement on August 19, for Nigeria to supply 30,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd) to the Ivorian state-owned 60, 000 to 80,000 bpd oil refinery. The contract will be renewed annually. The Ivory Coast only has an oil reserve of around 50 million barrels and produces 11,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil, compared to the country's demand put about 32,000 bpd.

The regional smuggling is a double-edged sword. In addition to destabilizing West Africa's legitimate economy, pirates and ethnic militias around Nigeria's delta area are believed to be using the profits from the illegal oil transfers to buy modern assault rifles, machine guns, and rocket launchers. Pirate attacks on legitimate oil shipping would then make the Ivorian refinery owners more likely to turn to unreliable smugglers, which creates a vicious cycle of instability. - Adam Geibel


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