Nigeria: September 7, 2003


Nigeria received a third US warship (the NNS 'Nwambe'), one of seven former Coast Guard cutters being refurbished by the US Department of Defense and sent to Nigeria. The first two of the $3.5 million ships arrived in March and the rest are scheduled for delivery before the end of this year. All of the vessels arrive without arms and ammunition but were fitted with cannons and machine guns by the Nigerians before deployment. The crew compliment of each is 42.

This aid is part of a security cooperation program aimed at ending crude oil theft and civil unrest in the Niger Delta. Fighting in the area has forced Shell, ChevronTexaco, and Total to shut down most of their oil wells in the western Delta. Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and the fifth-biggest supplier of U.S. oil imports. 

Armed gangs of pirates using barges prowl the Niger Delta swamplands, tapping into pipelines to steal 200,000-300,000 barrels per day of crude oil (about 10-15% of Nigeria's daily production). This liquid gold is transferred tanker trucks or ocean-going vessels, for sale abroad. While much of the stolen oil goes to west African refineries, some cargoes get as far as Europe (in particular to the Dutch port of Rotterdam). 

Ten sailors from Senegal, Gambia and Ivory Coast were arrested by the Nigerian navy during an operation to halt oil smuggling over three weeks in August. Navy patrols also seized four sea-going tankers and a motorized barge involved in smuggling. - Adam Geibel


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