Akwa Ibom Oil Rig Attacked The following report is based on open source reporting. November 10, 2010 Akwa Ibom Oil Rig Attacked At approximately 1:00 a.m. on November 8, Nigerian gunmen attacked an oil rig off the coast of Akwa Ibom state, a Niger Delta province in southeastern Nigeria, kidnapping five crew members and wounding another. Preliminary reports have attributed responsibility to Nigeria’s most prominent militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND); however, MEND is a decentralized organization serving primarily as an umbrella organization for criminal gangs. Therefore, the attack may have been perpetrated by criminals seeking to exploit the “MEND brand” for their own purposes. The incident occurred as an e-mail was sent to journalists warning that a series of new attacks would be launched on oil installations in the Niger Delta in the coming days. Specific details of the incident are unclear, but, these types of attacks are certainly not unheard of in the country. Sabotage of oil facilities and kidnappings for ransom have occurred frequently in the region. Analysts are concerned that this attack could foreshadow a resumption of hostilities, which is particularly troubling in light of Nigeria’s impending federal elections in April 2011. Previous Incidents In September, alleged MEND militants abducted three French oil workers and a Thai national from an oil platform off Bonny Island after a raid that led to a fierce shootout with Nigerian Naval authorities. In October, unprecedented twin car bombings in the capital city Abuja carried out during 50th Anniversary Independence celebrations were attributed to Henry Okah, a prominent Niger Delta arms dealer with alleged loose ties to MEND. These incidents are perpetrated for a variety of reasons. Kidnapping is a lucrative enterprise in Nigeria, with ransom demands drawing large sums. Many militants claim to be fighting for a more equitable distribution of oil revenue, citing alleged abuses by the federal government. An amnesty deal instituted in 2009 by the federal government as an effort to encourage militants to transition to a non-criminal lifestyle was somewhat successful in reducing unrest in the Niger Delta. While almost all major militant leaders accepted the offer and the amnesty remains in effect, incidents of violence and kidnapping, though significantly reduced, remain common occurences. Ex-militants who are involved in the amnesty program have consistently expressed grievances regarding inadequate pay, often alleging that they are owed weeks pay in arrears. There have been protests with respect to this issue, For example, on November 8 over 200 troubled ex-militants barricaded the Mbiama-Yenagoa Junction axis of the East/West road linking Bayelsa State with Rivers State in an effort to draw attention to the non-payment of the amnesty stipend. In addition to protests, intermittent attacks on oil pipelines and state facilities have continued, as well as the practice of kidnapping. In March, militants detonated The contents of this (U) presentation in no way represent the policies, views, or attitudes of the United States Department of State, or the United States Government, except as otherwise noted (e.g., travel advisories, public statements). The presentation was compiled from various open sources and (U) embassy reporting. Please note that all OSAC products are for internal U.S. private sector security purposes only. Publishing or otherwise distributing OSAC-derived information in a manner inconsistent with this policy may result in the discontinuation of OSAC support. two bombs outside of a state government facility during amnesty program negotiations in Warri, Delta state. Eight people were killed and buildings in the area were damaged as a result of this attack. MEND claimed responsibility. Implications for OSAC constituents Expatriates and Western-based companies have often been targeted for kidnappings and facility takeovers in the Niger Delta region. These incidents have stemmed from local community disputes, political activism, and nefarious criminal enterprises. While attacks against pipelines and oil facilities have largely subsided as a result of the amnesty deal, kidnappings for ransom, particularly against Nigerians, have increased. While the kidnappers generally are more concerned with securing ransoms than harming hostages, their actions frequently involve some level of violence and could result in severe injury or death. The U.S. government recommends only essential travel to the Niger Delta and neighboring states such as Imo and Abia. Many foreign oil companies operating in the Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers have implemented “essential travel only” policies for their personnel. U.S. Mission Nigeria currently requires advance permission for U.S. government travel to these states, as well as the states of Abia, Edo, and Imo, the city of Jos in Plateau State, and Bauchi and Borno States given the safety and security risk assessments and the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General's limited ability to provide assistance to people detained by Nigerian authorities in these states. U.S. citizens who are resident in these states are advised to review their personal security in accordance with the most recent Travel Warning for Nigeria. For Further Information Please direct any questions regarding this report or the general security situation in Nigeria to OSAC’s Regional Coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa. The contents of this (U) presentation in no way represent the policies, views, or attitudes of the United States Department of State, or the United States Government, except as otherwise noted (e.g., travel advisories, public statements). The presentation was compiled from various open sources and (U) embassy reporting. Please note that all OSAC products are for internal U.S. private sector security purposes only. Publishing or otherwise distributing OSAC-derived information in a manner inconsistent with this policy may result in the discontinuation of OSAC support.