Cablegate: Nigeria: Violence Escalates in Escravos

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Proprietary information in paragraphs 3-4. Please
protect accordingly.

2. (SBU) Summary: Escalating violence between Ijaws and
Itsekiris have combined with security inadequacies to force
ChevronTexaco and Shell to halt some operations, reducing
Nigeria's crude production by 350,000-400,000 bpd. If the
unrest spreads, oil production could fall further, impacting
negatively both U.S. energy security and Nigeria's political and
fiscal stability. Several thousand persons are now IDPs. There
are no reports of AmCit injuries. End summary.


3. (SBU) On March 20, Sola Omole, ChevronTexaco's Manager of
Government and Public Affairs, told EconOff that ChevronTexaco
had shut down its operation in Escravos, halting production of
nearly 140,000 bpd of crude oil, almost 50 percent of its
production from that area. He mentioned that Shell had also
temporarily reduced production by 126,000 barrels of crude per
day. However, British High Commissioner Thomas told Ambassador
Jeter on March 22 that Shell was losing up to 250,000 barrels
daily. Omole confirmed one of the company's catering staff had
died two days earlier of gunshot wounds; another six employees
were injured. All are Nigerian nationals. As of March 20, the
GON had deployed about 150 troops to the Escravos area since the
violence began on March 17 and another 1,000 troops to the Warri
area, where there is similar unrest.

4. (SBU) To the above-mentioned lost production should be added
unknown losses (by some estimates just over 30,000 bpd) from the
closure of a TotalFinaElf flow-station in the area. In short,
Nigeria's production seems to have fallen by roughly 350,000-
400,000 bpd within the past five days. Omole warned (septel from
Lagos) that ChevronTexaco might reduce its production by another
300,000 bpd in the days and weeks ahead if progress could not be
made in defusing the inter-ethnic conflict.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: It is difficult to estimate production losses
accurately and harder still to predict future cuts. The joint-
venture companies (JVs) in the Nigerian petroleum sector tend to
declare force majeure swiftly when confronted by violence in
production areas, not just to protect against future claims by
customers, but also to put pressure on the GON to defuse the
underlying tensions. END COMMENT.


6. (SBU) On March 2, an Ijaw group, the Federated Niger Delta
Ijaw Communities, had threatened mass protests on March 10 if the
Government of Nigeria failed to meet their demands. These
included withdrawal of troops from Warri (the troops were keeping
the Ijaw militias from attacking their less well-armed ethnic
opponents), redrawing electoral boundaries in Warri, examination
of land ownership, and redistribution of oil revenues. The Ijaw
ultimatum ordered the oil companies to leave the area since the
Ijaws' dispute was with the GON.

7. (SBU) Because of the violence, ChevronTexaco and Shell began
evacuating non-essential employees. Omole said crew changes had
been put on hold. An indicator of how tense the situation was
this week was that a helicopter evacuating Shell employees was
fired upon. Following this incident, all the air carriers serving
Warri and environs -- Aero Contractors, Dana, Bristow
Helicopters, Pan African Airlines, and Associated Airlines --
temporarily halted flights.


8. (SBU) Omole said 2,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs)
(almost all Itsekiri fleeing the better-armed Ijaw) had taken
refuge at ChevronTexaco's Escravos tank farm as of March 21.
Omole had heard but could not confirm that ten villages had been
destroyed. During March 18-21, Chevron evacuated many IDPs to
Warri via air. Because ChevronTexaco must deal with remaining
IDPs at Escravos, it deferred evacuating those employees who
were helping with the displaced persons until March 21-22, when
the Ijaw attacks intensified. The Ijaws reportedly have
complained that ChevronTexaco is impeding their efforts against
the Itsekiri, but, thus far, have apparently have not
specifically targeted ChevronTexaco employees, and they have not
attacked the tank farm itself.


9. (SBU) According to Omole, no GON authority appears to be
engaged in conflict resolution with the Ijaws. He confirmed that
the British High Commission and Dutch Embassy were trying to see
how they could help; he asked that Ambassador Jeter urge the GON
to engage in talks with the warring parties. Although the oil
companies were being affected, Omole thought the attacks indeed
were not directed against their operations and that GON
engagement at a high enough level might be a useful measure to
help restore production.


10. (SBU) This message should be read in conjunction with
reporting from ConGen Lagos (where much of this message was
drafted) and an Abuja septel reporting Ambassador Jeter's March
21 midnight discussion with President Obasanjo.

© Scoop Media

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