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The Times: Kidnapped Briton’s death raises fear over future of oil supplies

Nigeria Map

By David Brown
November 24, 2006

*Worker dies in clash with military

*Armed militias control the region
 
The British worker shot dead in the oil-producing region of Nigeria this week was the first foreigner to be killed after being kidnapped.

David Hunt, 58, died on Wednesday when his kidnappers were confronted by the Nigerian military the day after he was seized during a raid on an oil platform.

The oil worker’s death has increased concerns about the future of oil supplies in the world’s eighth-biggest oil producer. Violence and kidnappings in the Niger Delta have increased ahead of an Opec conference next month and nationwide elections in April. 
 
Mr Hunt, from Middlesbrough, was seized by an armed gang with six foreign colleagues when a gang armed with rifles and exploves used speedboats to attack the Mystras, a floating tanker and oil refinery operated by Saipem, a unit of the Italian oil giant Eni.

The father of two’s family spoke yesterday of their devastation at his death. His wife, Janice, said: “David was a wonderful loving son, husband, father and grandfather. His death has left us devastated.”

He had worked abroad for many yearsand had flown to Lagos to join the Mystras as a production superintendent on October 24.

Mr Hunt died when his kidnappers ran into a military patrol in the remote creeks of the delta. Two other hostages were wounded in the firefight, but the remaining four were released unharmed.

Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, said that the Foreign Office was seeking urgent clarification from the Nigerian authorities about the circumstances surrounding Mr Hunt’s death. “I utterly condemn the barbaric act of kidnapping that led to his death,” she said.

Many villagers in the poor, impenetrable wetlands of the Niger Delta resent the oil industry for generating huge revenues for the faraway Government and foreign oil firms while they have no power, no roads, no clean water and few schools or clinics.

Much of the region is controlled by armed militias who have strong links to the country’s politicians and to the theft of up to a fifth of Nigeria’s oil production.

The militias frequently kidnap foreigners, but the hostages are normally released unharmed for a ransom. The only other known hostage death occurred in August, also during an attempt by Nigerian troops to free the captive, a Nigerian employee of Royal Dutch Shell.

An oil security co-ordinator in the region said: “In future, if we had people taken I would be talking to the government security forces to make sure that they don’t try to rescue them.”

However, the Nigerian military said that it would maintain a tough stance on hostage- takers. Captain Obiora Medani, a Nigerian Navy spokesman, said: “It is unfortunate that a foreigner was killed during the operation. We are not going to change our strategy. We will smoke out the militants until they desist from their criminal and deadly acts.”

President Obasanjo ordered the military in August to get tougher on what he described as the “terrorists” and “criminals” in the delta region.

A spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, an armed group which has in the past claimed responsibility for abductions and attacks on oil installations and workers, said: “The hostage-takers ran into a naval patrol and in the exchange, the Nigerian military killed one of the expatriate hostages and severely injured another.”
 
He said that the hostages “were abandoned in the exchange by the kidnappers who had insufficient ammunition and only four rifles”.

Crude costs

The oil industry accounts for more than 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange revenue

Total crude oil reserves are estimated at 25 billion barrels 

Shell is Nigeria’s biggest oil operator, accounting for half the daily output of 2.6 million barrels

Production has fallen by a quarter since the start of the year

There are 606 oil fields and seven fixed terminals

Sources: Nigerian Oil and Gas Online and Times database
 
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2469068.html

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