May 26, 2007

NIGERIA MONITOR: Compilation of Events

Oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria
May 26, 2007

Nigeria - Seven oil workers were kidnapped in Nigeria, three of them U.S. citizens, the U.S. State Department confirmed but offered few details.

"Our consulate general in Lagos reports that three American citizens were kidnapped in Bayelsa state," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said in a written statement.

"We are in the process of notifying their families, and will maintain contact with Nigerian authorities to monitor this incident."

Four other foreigners were kidnapped in the same incident, he said.

Reuters cited oil industry sources as saying nine foreign oil workers and a Nigerian colleague were kidnapped Friday.

In addition to the three Americans, the workers included four Britons, a South African and a Filipino, industry sources told Reuters.

There has been a wave of kidnappings of foreign workers in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Since late 2005, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) militants have carried out numerous attacks on Nigeria's oil sector and abducted dozens of foreign workers, releasing nearly all of them unharmed.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer. In 2005, it was the world's sixth-largest exporter of oil, but the conflict there has cut distribution by an estimated 500,000 barrels per day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

© AlaskaReport News

26/05/2007 14:32 LAGOS, May 26 (AFP)
Nigeria's oil unions suspend strike

Nigeria's oil unions said Saturday they have suspended a two-day-old strike after the government met their demands over the proposed sale of two state-owned oil refineries.

"We have suspended the strike," Peter Esele, president of the senior oil workers union PENGASSAN, told AFP.

He said that the government has agreed to retain a 51 percent stake in the Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries and only sell the remaining 49 percent to private investors. Previously the government wanted to sell 100 percent.

The government also agreed to a 15 percent wage increase.

Nigeria's PENGASSAN and NUPENG oil workers unions had began the strike on Thursday at the refineries, which have a combined production capacity of 210,000 barrels of crude oil per day and employ around 4,000 people.

"The sale of the refineries does not follow due process and was not agreed to by all the stakeholders in the industry," said NUPENG head Peter Akpatason.

"Some of these so-called investors are political in their activities, they may buy the refineries and keep them comatose to promote monopoly", he added.

Critics of Nigeria's outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo, who steps down on Tuesday, accuse him of organising a fire sale of state assets to his cronies in his final days in power.

Nigeria is world's sixth oil exporter accounting for about 2.6 million barrels per day of crude but production has been cut by a quarter due to unrest in the Niger Delta, where more than 150 foreign workers have been kidnapped this year.

Crude oil prices rise on Nigeria strike, worry over Iran

© ap
2007-05-26 02:17:45 -

LONDON (AP) _ Crude oil prices rose Friday amid worries about supply after Nigeria's powerful oil unions went on strike and gunmen kidnapped oil workers in the nation's south. Concern about more tensions with Iran was also a factor.
Potential conflicts in Nigeria _ Africa's biggest oil producer and a top supplier of crude to

the United States _ and Iran could affect global supplies and are buoying prices after a sharp drop-off Thursday, analysts said.
Light, sweet crude for July delivery rose 82 cents to US$65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by afternoon in Europe. Brent crude for July rose 39 cents to US$71.11 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Oil unions began a strike Thursday at Nigeria's state-owned oil company and threatened to target exports in hopes of reversing the sale of government refineries. The state oil company holds the majority stake in joint ventures with international oil companies that account for more than 90 percent of the country's oil exports.
The kidnappings in southern Bayelsa, meanwhile, are the latest in a run of more than 100 seizures of foreign workers this year in the oil-producing Niger Delta. Embassy officials said those kidnapped included three Americans and four Britons.
Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment program, and the U.S. Navy is holding unannounced exercises off Iran's coast.
Traders and analysts fear any conflict between the U.S. and Iran could result in the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, through which tankers ship carry about 17 million barrels of crude oil a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Still, growing crude stocks in the U.S. have been depressing prices, as traders figure that already abundant crude inventories are likely to swell even more if refineries keep paring back operations for maintenance.
«The refinery problems in the U.S. has meant that there has been a buildup of crude even though there has been very strong demand for gasoline,» said Andrew Harrington, an analyst with ANZ Global Natural Resources in Sydney. «So that's putting pressure on crude prices.»
But issues surrounding Nigeria and Iran have taken front seat for now, Harrington said.
New refinery outages were reported at Valero Energy Corp.'s McKee refinery in Sunray, Texas, and ConocoPhillips' Alliance oil refinery in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, after a U.S. government report showed Wednesday that U.S. crude oil supplies rose 2 million barrels last week when analysts had been expecting a drop of 200,000 barrels.
Each new refinery problem makes crude oil less needed and gasoline in tighter supply, said Peter Beutel, president at trading advisory firm Cameron Hanover.
Heating oil futures gained 1.86 cents to US$1.9477 a gallon (3.8 liters) while natural gas prices edged up 0.3 cent to US$7.684 per 1,000 cubic feet. 

Nigeria: Which Drug Barons?

Vanguard (Lagos)

25 May 2007
Posted to the web 25 May 2007


AT a time many Nigerians thought the murder of Chief James Ajibola Ige, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, had been rested, since his killers were unknown, President Olusegun Obasanjo has stated that drug barons killed him.

Nigerians are unshockable by the utterances of their imperious President. The latest revelation is an additional parting shot to the long list of Obasanjo's legacies. Why did it take the President more than five years to react to the murder of his serving Attorney General? The position of the Attorney is important enough to be listed by title and function in the Constitution.

How did the President know the killers were drug barons? Why was the President comfortable with a tenuous investigation of a very important national issue?

Was the curtailment of illegal drug trade not one of the listed achievements of the President? Was Ige working outside the programme of the government, assuming this was the reason for his death? Why was none of the suspects linked to drug barons? When did the President, who swore in 1999 and again in 2003 to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria know this? The Constitution provides for sanctity of the human life.

It is obvious Ige's murder did not embarrass the government. There were no convictions, and Justice Atinuke Ige, wife of the former Minister of Justice, died soon after a no case submission was made - and all the accused freed - in 2003. The Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, last December declared the case closed.

What did the President intend to achieve by bringing up this case?Relevant Links

The Ige family think it is part of a campaign of calumny the President had been waging against their dead father. President Obasanjo had earlier blamed power failure on a minister "who did not know his left from his right". Chief Ige was a Minister of Power for just a year and power supply has regularly dipped below pre-1999 levels since Ige's exit.

President Obasanjo has unfortunately dedicated his remaining days to the same unpresidential altercations he has often been advised were below his office. His strident attacks on Vice President Abubakar Atiku have been sustained. The President does not need to be provoked anymore. Nigerians mostly think his eight years were engaged unproductively in conflicts that diminished the exalted office of the President and charted a path of poor civility for his innumerable lieutenants some who wholesomely adopted the abuse as acceptable manner of engaging the public.

Does the President want to be remembered for his last days in this light? There are even hints that he is quickly losing touch with the reality of May 29 being his final day in office. At the commissioning of the Mint on May 20, the President threatened to sell the place in 12 months' time, if it failed to run according to his expectations

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