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allAfrica.com: Nigeria: 300 Militants Invade Shell Platform, Abduct 4 Nigerians, 3 Expatriates

Vanguard (Lagos)
22 October 2007

By Emma Amaize, Hector Igbikiowubo, Samuel Oyadongha & Emma Arubi
Warri

No fewer than 300 militants, armed with sub-machine guns, explosives and other sophisticated guns, and moving in about 30 speedboats, Saturday night, invaded the EA oil field, a Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) facility at Amatu, Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, overpowered the military men watching over and abducted four Nigerian and three expatriate oil workers – an American, Croatian and a Russian.

A civilian was reportedly injured in the operation that caught the naval personnel unawares. A top military source told Vanguard, yesterday, that the renewed assault was as a result of the breakdown in the political negotiation between militants and the government, adding that the militants passed information that they would strike before they carried out the audacious operation, weekend.
 
Already, the Navy, according to the Commanding Officer of the NNS Delta, Navy Captain Samson Ojediran has dispatched the NNS Obula to the conflict zone, while NNS Aradu and NNS Nwamba have been put on the red alert in Lagos.

The EA Field with a 115, 000 barrel per day capacity has been dormant since production from the Sea Eagle FPSO was shut in February last year. It is an offshore field operated by SNEPCo and came onstream in December 2002 as part of an extension of oil and gas production activities in Nigeria’s shallow offshore by the partnership involving the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Elf and Agip.

It was also learnt that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State has been contacted by a top military officer on the development and he is expected to get in touch with his Bayelsa State counterpart, Governor Timipre Sylva, and others to take a joint action since at it appears, the militants want to resume operations.

MEND claims responsibility

The Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the action.

The group in an online statement said: “Yesterday (Saturday), at about 8.45 p.m Nigerian time, combatants and operatives of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) successfully attacked an EA field vessel belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company taking away three hostages. The names of the hostages are: Capt Theo Courtriers (Russia), Lee Mcmamara (USA) and Mate Lusa (Croatia).

“This campaign is in direct response to the insincerity of the Nigerian state and the international community to honour and respect the travails of the people of the Niger Delta and provide privilege to those who lead the agitation for a better Niger Delta.

“The Angolan government must, therefore, accept full responsibility for this onslaught. By holding in criminal detention a key stakeholder in the Niger Delta struggle, the government of Angola has crossed a line that they may never be able to go back on, for in due time, our campaigns will be strategically focussed on Angolan concerns in Nigeria. We are building a list of these at the moment.

“Despite the fact that no credible evidence of wrong doing has been brought against Henry Okah, and in spite of the fact that the presiding judge has absolved him of any wrong doing in view of a total lack of evidence against him, Our son, brother and friend is being kept in the gallows of the Angolan state without recourse to the rule of law. How warped! This madness will not be hurriedly forgotten.

“There will be no warnings for the things that we shall do in the time to come.”

Shell evacuates staff

Shell in a statement said it had evacuated all personnel working aboard the facility.

Shell in the statement Statement signed by Olav Ljosne, Regional Director, Communications Africa,

Shell Exploration & Production Africa Ltd said: “A large group of armed men attacked two support vessels in Shell’s EA Field, offshore Niger Delta ( Bayelsa State ) yesterday. Seven persons including three expatriates (British, Croatian and Russian) working for contractors to Shell were abducted during the incident.

“There were no fatalities and staff in the field are being evacuated.

“We are concerned for the safety of the contractor staff and our thoughts are with them and their families at this difficult time. We are also cooperating with the government and their employers and supporting efforts for their safe release.

“The EA Field with a 115, 000 barrel per day capacity has not been producing oil since production from the Sea Eagle FPSO was shut in February last year.”

Also, Precious Okolobo, the company’s media spokesman, said in an interview that the kidnapped staff were working for Hydrodive and Burbon Interoil, two of the company’s contractors when the incident occurred.

Okolobo said no demands or contacts have been made by the kidnappers.
 
Host community disowns attack

The people of the Dodo River Development Council (DRDC), host to the EA field dissociated themselves from the attack which they described as an unprovoked act that should be condemned by all well meaning Bayelsans.

Chairman of the group, Mr. Berry Negeresse, said the act was not carried out by anybody from Dodo River communities in Ekeremor Local Government Area of the state. “The communities have been happy with Shell in recent times as the company has honoured all agreement reached with the people, hence, they have no reason to perpetrate such acts,” he said.

He asked the federal and state governments to bring the culprits to book, promising that the communities would give security operatives all the assistance they need in this regard.

JTF, Navy confirm attack

Both the Commander of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, Brigadier-General Lawrence Ngubane and Navy Captain Ojediran confirmed the attack on the EA oil field when contacted by Vanguard, yesterday.

Brigadier-General Ngubane told Vanguard that the information available to the JTF was that the militants came in about 30 speedboats and ended up kidnapping three expatriate oil workers, a Croatian, a Russian and an American.

He said a naval ship had been sent to the area for further assessment of the situation and possible response of the security agencies.
 
Navy Captain Ojediran said the since the attack, Saturday night, the Navy was doing everything possible to ensure protection of the facility and the workers, adding that naval personnel ships have been mobilised from the NNS, Delta and Lagos to the area.

A senior naval officer who preferred anonymity told Vanguard: “The truth is that our men were overpowered and there was nothing they could do in the circumstance because these boys were better armed. You have to see the commando style that they came, we could not stop them.

“Yes, there was a hint that they would strike but nobody knew when,” he said.

Copyright © 2007 Vanguard. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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