Cablegate: Nigeria Update - Bayelsa Hostages Released
UNCLAS LAGOS 001493
STATE PASS TO DS/IP/AF, DS/IP/OSAC, DS/IP/ITA
LONDON AND PARIS PASS TO AFRICA WATCHERS
KABUL PASS TO SROSS
DIA/J2 PASS TO GHAYES
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC EPET PINS PGOV NI CACS
SUBJECT: NIGERIA UPDATE - BAYELSA HOSTAGES RELEASED
REF: LAGOS 1475
1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On July 20, as reported in reftel,
several expatriate oil services employees were taken
hostage in Bayelsa State. We have since learned that
all have been released, including one American citizen.
The incident did not involve a host community dispute
as originally reported, but rather was the result of a
labor dispute within the contracting company. END
2. (SBU) News and field reports indicated July 20 that
several expatriate oil workers with the indigenous firm
Conoil Nigeria had been taken hostage in Bayelsa State.
We have since learned the situation was purely a labor
dispute internal to the contracting company, Forasol
Drilling West Africa, an American-French venture.
Forasol is a unit of U.S.-based Pride Drilling.
Subsequent to the initial report, we also learned an
American citizen employee of Halliburton was among the
hostages. That AmCit and all other expatriates have
been released and evacuated from the site. We do not
know how many of the Nigerians reported yesterday as
hostages actually participated in the labor action, but
all employees appear to be safe and sound today.
3. (SBU) According to our latest information, junior-
level or temporary workers at Forasol commandeered an
oil rig yesterday to protest the company's downsizing
plans. The workers demanded to be made permanent
hires. An oil services security manager told us that
the governor of Bayelsa State flew to the area and
successfully negotiated the hostages' release, taking
the expatriates off the rig in his helicopter.
4. (SBU) Tonte Senibo, Corporate Affairs Officer for
Forasol, confirmed Wednesday morning that the situation
occurred on a rig the company managed and that the
dispute was over wages. She said all persons held
against their will were released unharmed and taken to
a hotel in Bayelsa State. She expected them to be
flown to Port Harcourt by 1400 on Wednesday, July 21.
5. (SBU) Senibo stressed that this was a labor matter,
and added that in the three years Forasol has been
working in Nigeria, the company has never had a dispute
with a local community, as was widely reported
yesterday. She did note that Nigerian naval vessels
regularly patrol the waters in which the company works.
7. (SBU) COMMENT: We commented in reftel that
community conflicts in Nigeria occur in many isolated
areas beyond the normal purview of Nigeria watchers;
labor unrest is equally indiscriminate in regard to
location and size of employer. The speed at which this
incident was resolved by the affected company and the
state governor was encouraging, and perhaps reflects
the realization by officials of the need to end such
delicate situations quickly, before the potential for
violence increases. END COMMENT.