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TheAge.com.au: British oil worker abducted off Nigeria

April 1, 2007

A British oil worker was kidnapped from an offshore drilling rig in Nigeria yesterday, officials and industry sources said.

“We can confirm there was an incident in the early hours of this morning in which a British national was taken hostage,” a spokeswoman for Britain’s Foreign Office in London said. “We are in touch with the Nigerian authorities to try to secure a swift and peaceful resolution.”

She confirmed the kidnapped person was an oil worker but said his name was not being released.

“An expat was kidnapped from the Bulford Dolphin rig,” said an industry source, without giving any further details.

The rig is situated about 40 miles (65 km) off the coast of the lawless Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil heartland where kidnappings of foreign workers for ransom or to press political demands are common.

Six Britons, one American and a Canadian were kidnapped from Bulford Dolphin on June 2 last year in a night raid by gunmen in speedboats. They were released two days later.

The Bulford Dolphin rig is owned by the Norwegian oilfield services group Fred Olsen Energy ASA and leased to Nigerian firm Peak Petroleum, which operates it in partnership with Equator Exploration.

The facility is an exploration rig that will not produce crude for years.

The Niger Delta, which accounts for all of Nigeria’s approximately 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in crude exports, has been hit by a wave of abductions and attacks on oil facilities since late 2005.

Oil production has been down by 500,000 bpd since February last year because of a series of raids on Royal Dutch Shell oilfields that month by a rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). A MEND spokesman said the group was not involved in the latest abduction.

MEND has taken hostages to press its demands for greater local control of oil revenues, but numerous other “freelance” kidnappers have seized foreigners to extract hefty ransoms from companies or local authorities.

Analysts say the violence in the delta is rooted in poverty and a collapse in basic public services due to endemic corruption in government.

Millions of villagers with no access to clean water, electricity or roads resent the multi-billion dollar oil industry and its web of pipelines criss-crossing their lands.

Nigeria is the world’s eighth biggest exporter of crude oil.

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