Nigeria: May 13, 2003


Nigerian Navy warned Niger Delta ethnic militia groups to lay down their arms and desist from attacking any military base or oil installation or suffer the consequences. Nigerian Navy Rear Admiral Bob-Manuel, commanding Western Naval Command, promised to return fire on Ijaw youths terrorizing their Itsekiri neighbors in the Delta State. The militias' favorite tactic is to attack on small swift boats, with AK 47 assault rifles and other light weapons. The Navy also confirmed that nine Army and Navy security personnel had been killed in the Warri area.

Siphoning off crude oil (or 'bunkering') is estimated to be about 10 per cent of Nigeria's total oil production (or more than US $1 billion). Last week, the Shell Petroleum Company of Nigeria disclosed that the company loses about 100 barrels of crude oil per day, while oil spills and pipeline fires arising have created serious environmental problems. This volume of stolen goods has enabled the guilty parties to bribe their way through all tiers of the Nigerian government, including military personnel stationed in the country's oil producing areas.

Earlier on the 8th, the navy impounded two vessels believed to be involved in crude oil theft on the Sombreiro River. The intercept of the MT Frances (600 metric tons) and MT Evivina (500 metric tons) was made south of Awoba, between Rivers and Bayelsa states. The two ships were believed to be chartered by three Nigerians and one expatriate, making this arrest the third this month alone. The Navy impounded 12 barges on May 6 and 7. Five barges were transporting crude oil and three diesel.

In 2002, the Nigerian Navy also reported intercepting the MS Abebi and MS Fari, both involved in crude oil theft. One officer claimed that this proved the Navy's commitment to fighting theft, but he chose to remain anonymous.

Two naval ratings remain in the hospital, wounded during the May 2 attack on the naval base (NNS Umalokun), when militiamen attempted to invade Warri through the waterfront near the base. More troops and even armored vehicles were moved up to protect the base's perimeter.

On March 22, an attack on the Army/Navy security team at Total Fina Elf Tank farm at Upomani village killed five and destroyed a substantial amount of equipment. Militiamen in 17 speedboats attack a Joint Nigerian Army/Navy Task Force patrol at Oprosa on the Escravos river on the 21st, killing three soldiers and one naval rating. - Adam Geibel


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