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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Notes On Niger Delta Crisis

Stealing, fighting, seeking power
From Africa Confidential


Some of the militant leaders linked to the attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta earn tens of thousands of dollars from contracts with the oil majors. The FNDIC leaders Kingsley Otuaro and Messio German run contracting companies working with the oil majors. In Okerenkoko, Messio’s Integrate Production System Surveillance (IPSS) signed a second annual contract with Shell in November to provide security for the company’s huge Jones Creek flow station, where Okerenkoko is one of five ‘host communities’. Messio says the first contract was worth 24 million naira (US$164,000). The second, running from 1 November to 31 October, was for an initial N18 mn. ($123,000), including ‘incident-free bonuses’ of N3.6 mn. ($24,700) a quarter.
IPSS is not officially registered and its contracts look like disguised protection payments. ‘I sincerely believe MEND will not blow up any pipeline [in Okerenkoko] because the security boys would not allow it’, says Messio. He adds that pipeline vandalisation used to be common until a memorandum from him and Otuaro prompted Shell to hire IPSS.
Messio says Shell has since hired local contracting firms all over Delta state. Similar arrangements in Bayelsa are a source of friction between rival Ijaw communities. Shell admits it faces ‘pressure for cash payments for non-legitimate reasons’, but ruled in 2003 that it would no longer pay communities except for legitimate business reasons. Chevron’s similar clean-up last year involved a Global Memorandum of Understanding, designed to end practices such as the hiring of ‘ghost workers’ to pacify local youths. It also said it was ending the designation of ‘host communities’ for its flow stations (oil rigs have ‘impacted communities’) but the message does not seem to have reached the creeks.
An outfit called The Host Communities of Nigeria wants a constitutional amendment to ensure that 13 per cent of government oil revenues go directly to them, rather than to the state governments which, they say, steal most of the money. Leaders in this move are FNDIC’s Messio and the Gbaramatu chiefs.
Shell has been targeted by MEND in the latest violence but not Chevron, the opposite of what happened in 2003. Then, Chevron facilities were attacked in both Ijaw and Itsekiri areas. Ijaws felt that Itsekiris were getting a disproportionate number of oil jobs (Ijaws call that ‘differentials’).
Otuaro denies any link with MEND and says that Shell is targetted because it is less responsive to ‘opinion leaders’ such as himself, especially in paying for trips to the creeks to calm down angry youths or give jobs to local people. complains that Shell refused work to one of his contracting companies, Bruz-Otus, when drilling new wells around Jones Creek last year. Shadro Services Limited, which is owned by Otuaro and his brother Shadrack Otuaro, has lucrative contracts with Shell at Jones Creek and the Egwa oilfield. This pattern of business and militancy is repeated across the region.

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