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Cablegate: Kidnapping of Nigerian Chevron Worker

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

UNCLAS ABUJA 001325

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EPET PINS PGOV NI
SUBJECT: KIDNAPPING OF NIGERIAN CHEVRON WORKER


REF: LAGOS 1535


1.(SBU) Embassy's Corporate Responsibility Officer (CRO)
spoke July 31 with Ijaw national leader Chief Edwin K. Clark,
who confirmed press reports that two Ijaw men (Egbema clan)
involved in the kidnapping of the Nigerian Chevron employee
(reported reftel), who we understand was released on the
morning of August 1, have been arrested in Warri. According
to Clark, the two Egbema youth appeared at a July 30 meeting
of the Delta State Security Council held by Delta State
Government James Ibori in Warri. (Note: This forum is
normally restricted to government officials but the Governor
has included ethnic leaders since the outbreak of
inter-ethnic violence in Warri in March 2003. end note)


2.(SBU) When Clark recognized the two as leaders of the group
claiming responsibility for the kidnapping, he identified
them to Ibori. Ibori promptly ordered their arrest, claims
Clark. Ibori also reportedly issued an ultimatum to the
other kidnappers: release the Chevron officials within 48
hours or risk police action. Clark stressed the Egbema youth
involved in this extortion had neither his support nor that
of Egbema elders. "They're just criminals," he said.


3.(SBU) CRO also spoke July 31 with Chevron's Abuja-based
General Manager for Governmental and Public Affairs, Sola
Omole, who explained that PENGASSAN, the union of
white-collar Nigerian oil workers, had written to Chevron
urging the company to produce the release of its kidnapped
member within 72 hours. He said the PENGASSAN letter cited
concerns for the employee's well-being, but the union never
threatened to strike over this matter. In Omole's words: "if
they've threatened to strike, we don't know about it."


4.(SBU) Comment: This was a criminal act, carried out by
youth acting outside the guidance of recognized Ijaw leaders,
even outside the Ijaw militant group "FNDIC." This is not an
outgrowth of the ongoing Warri crisis, which centers on
fighting between the Itsekiri and the Ijaw Gbaramatu clan
over political representation and control of the oil-rich
Warri region. Apparently, this also was not a case of the
union flexing its muscle to demand that Chevron win the
release of its member. The story of a PENGASSAN threat was
likely the brainchild of an irresponsible journalist. Given
PENGASSAN's lack of eagerness to join the recent national
labor strike against the fuel increase, it never seemed
likely that PENGASSAN would halt oil production now. Oil
production was never threatened by this kidnapping.


LIBERI

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