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Cablegate: Asari Withdrawal From Peace Process Unclear; Shell

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 002363

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - HANDLE ACCORDINGLY

STATE FOR AF/W
STATE FOR EB/ESC/IEC/ENR/BLEVINE
STATE FOR DS/IP/AF
STAT FOR INR/AA
STATE PASS DOE FOR DAS JBRODMAN AND CGAY
STATE PASS TREASURY FOR ASEVERENS AND SRENENDER
STATE PASS DOC PHUPER
STATE PASS TRANSPORTATION FOR MARAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EPET CASC PGOV MOPS NI
SUBJECT: ASARI WITHDRAWAL FROM PEACE PROCESS UNCLEAR; SHELL
CONTRACTOR KILLED IN BAYELSA

Summary
--------

1. (SBU) Press accounts state Niger Delta People's
Volunteer Force (NDPVF) leader Asari has pulled out the peace
talks with the Government of Nigeria. However, Shell's
External Relations Director told us that his sources in the
area indicate Asari has not withdrawn from the peace accord.
Shell reported that a contractor was killed in the Delta
region on 17 November; Shell employees repelled an attempt to
take over a rig on 20 November. It is not yet known whether
the perpetrators of these attacks are associated with Asari.
U.S. firm Seabulk received a threat on 18 November
purportedly from the NDPVF to attack its joint venture
operation and to kidnap expatriate workers unless the firm
pays a ransom. In direct discussions between Seabulk and
Asari, Asari neither endorsed nor renounced this threat.
While extortion has become a regular component of doing
business in the Delta, Seabulk noted an increase in
extortionate letters the firm has received during the last
few weeks.

Press: Asari Pulled Out of the Peace Process
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (U) Press accounts from November 17 and 18 state that
the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF) leader Asari
pulled out the peace talks with the Government of Nigeria.
The Vanguard newspaper reported Asari stating that, "I can
only speak to what I have seen and observed and I can tell
you that the process has not been transparent and this lack
of transparency I always knew would not sustain the process.
All I can say now is that that Obasanjo is not committed to a
peaceful resolution of the conflict." The Vanguard alleged
that Asari was disgruntled that rival militia leader Ateke
Tom had turned in less weapons than had the NDPVF.

Shell Disputes Press Reports of Asari Pullout
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) The Shell External Relations Director stated that,
contrary to press reports, his reliable sources indicate that
Asari had not withdrawn from the peace accord. The Chevron
Texaco Environmental, Safety, and Health Manager noted no
uptick in security threats against Chevron. A survey of most
other American firms working in the Delta region produced no
other complaints of recent increased tensions or threats by
community groups.

Contractor Killed in Bayelsa; Shell Repels Rig Seizure
--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (SBU) Over the weekend, Shell experienced two separate
attacks. It is not yet known whether the perpetrators of
these incidents are associated with Asari. In the first
incident, the Shell External Relations Director confirmed
that a contractor (nationality unknown) was killed on 17
November in the creek area of Nembe, Bayelsa state. No
further details were available. In the second incident, a
Shell security employee reported that on 20 November, about
150 community youths attempted to seize Rig 75 in Bayelsa
State. Shell employees locked the rig down, and the youths
were not successful. The Nigerian Army appears to have shot
one youth in the leg during the ensuing altercation. No
Shell or military employees were injured. The Shell employee
reported that the youths attacked due to a dispute concerning
a Memorandum of Understanding between the community and
Shell.

Group Claiming to Represent Asari Threatens Seabulk
--------------------------------------------- -------

5. (SBU) The Managing Director (MD) of U.S. firm Seabulk
informed the U.S. Consulate that it had received a threat on
18 November, allegedly from the NDPVF, to shut down its joint
venture operation (which operates five crewboats in Nigeria),
and to kidnap expatriate workers at the JV company base,
unless the firm paid 3 million naira to the NDPVF and
immediately employed 50 workers from the Niger Delta.
Seabulk representatives met with Asari on 19 November, at
which time Asari did not appear to know about the threat.
However, he was unwilling to renounce the threat, and
indicated that he would get back in touch with Seabulk later.
Seabulk?s MD also stated that several letters from
community groups making various demands and appeals have now
copied Asari on their letters.

6. (SBU) The Seabulk MD also noted an uptick in the number
of threatening letters from various community groups
demanding meetings this month. He stated that U.S. firm
Tryco had also been approached by a group claiming to
represent Asari. The Seabulk MD is of the opinion that the
GON negotiations with the NDPFV have opened the door for
extortion by other community groups. The MD also indicated
that these types of demands become more prevalent close to
the Christmas holidays, as communities attempt to raise funds
for end of the year festivities.

7. (SBU) Seabulk passed to the Consulate copies of letters
to Seabulk from the Ijaw Youth Council, Okira Local
Government Council, and the Brass Local Government Council.
The letters include charges of "utter neglect of local
content policies, deliberate and calculative discriminatory
policies and employment and empowerment measures against Ijaw
youth," to demands for sports promotion, employment,
contracts, and homage to the Executive Chairman. (Note:
Upwards of 90 percent of Seabulk employees are Nigerian, many
from the Delta region.)
BROWNE

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