Gangs are now targeting key Nigerian employees of oil companies, and kidnapping them. Ransoms of $50,000-100,0000 are demanded, and the oil companies pay in order to maintain morale among their skilled Nigerian workers. Foreign oil company employees are heavily guarded, as are foreigners in general. So more Nigerians are being taken. Recently, a Catholic priest was grabbed, which was a first for the Niger delta. Clergy are usually left alone. But crime in general is on the increase in the delta, as money from stealing oil puts guns into the hands of more young men.
Increased attacks on oil company ships has reduced the rate at which oil can be pumped. Last year, there were 68 attacks on offshore oil facilities (ships and rigs), In 2007, there were 31. In addition to the greater police and military presence in the area, the oil companies have increased their own security spending (which has increased oil production expenses by 30 percent in the last few years), to about $3 billion a year (for civilian security guards and security systems.) As a result, oil companies have delayed drilling more offshore wells. Thus the Niger delta unrest has not only cut current production by 20 percent, but prevented expansion of potential production.
January 31, 2009: The rebel group MEND has declared its ceasefire over, and threatens to shut down oil production if the government does not release their leader, and withdraw military forces from the Niger delta. The government won't, and MEND won't. But MEND might try.
January 23, 2009: In the Niger delta, pirates attacked two oil company boats. In both cases, the gunmen in speedboats looted the captured ships and robbed the crews. There was no attempt to hold the captured ships for ransom, because the pirates have no secure base where they can stash hijacked ships.