Chevron Evacuates Staff as Masterminds of Attacks on Facilities Apprehended

  •  N’Delta stakeholders meet on upsurge in violence 
  • Group blames Jonathan’s loyalists for violence

Ndubuisi Francis, Senator Iroegbu, Chineme Okafor in Abuja and Ejiofor Alike in Lagos

Following the spate of attacks on its facilities, Chevron Nigeria Limited at the weekend commenced the evacuation of staff from its installations in the western Niger Delta, including the Escravos Export Terminal, THISDAY has learnt.

The company has however refused to confirm or deny the development, insisting that it has a longstanding policy not to comment on its security arrangements.

The Escravos terminal, which was expected to lift 1.9 million barrels weekly after the first attack on the company’s installations, has so far not been affected by the renewed attacks on its facilities.

However, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) sunday confirmed the arrest of suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), a new militant group in the oil-rich region, which had claimed responsibility for attacks on Chevron and Shell’s facility in the western Niger Delta.

It also threatened to blow up more installations and specifically targeted Chevron’s facilities and its head office in Lagos for further attacks if the company refused to shut down its operations.

In response to the threat, a top official of Chevron told THISDAY at the weekend that oil loading at Escravos was reduced after the latest attacks.

He said the company could no longer guarantee the safety of its workers at the Escravos terminal and other facilities in the western Niger Delta and had commenced the evacuation of what he described as “non-essential staff”.

“It started on Friday morning when they started to evacuate catering staff and contract staff. But in the evening, the situation changed and they started to evacuate non-essential staff, whether expatriate or national.

“If they feel that the job being done by 10 people can be done by five people, they evacuate five people. Some of the people being evacuated are trainees because there is no point keeping trainees when the environment is not safe.

“Because of the latest attacks, Escravos loading is severely impacted. Even though the terminal has not been attacked, the producing fields that supply crude to the terminal have been attacked. So exports will not be as frequent as they used to be,” he explained.

He stated that the evacuated workers have been directed to remain at home until the security situation improves.
“If you are not on duty at the moment, you will remain at home until they call you back,” he added.
The weekend attacks on the company’s facilities affected Makaraba and Otunana fields, disrupting the flow of crude oil.

The earlier attack on Okan Field affected the production of significant volumes of crude.
When contacted yesterday, Chevron’s General Manager in charge of Policy, Government and Public Affairs (PGPA), Mr. Deji Haastrup, however stated that the company does not comment on security plans.

“Do not believe everything you hear. We have a longstanding policy not to comment on our security plans,” he said.
With the attacks on Chevron facilities, coupled with Shell’s closure of its 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) Forcados terminal, the force majeure declared on Bonny Light exports due to a leak on the Nembe Creek Trunkline, as well as another one declared by ExxonMobil on exports of Qua Iboe crude, following the damage on a pipeline by a drilling rig, Nigeria’s crude exports have been severely impacted in recent weeks.

Insurgency Cuts Oil Output to 1.65mbpd

Confirming this yesterday, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, tweeted that the renewed insurgency and pipeline breaks in the Niger Delta had resulted in Nigeria’s daily crude oil production dropping to 1.65 million barrels per day (mbpd) as against the 2.2mbpd that was projected in the 2016 budget.
He said this had reduced government’s earnings and foreign exchange build-up to perhaps support the subsidy on importation of petrol into the country.

He equally listed the benefits of the new policy, saying that going forward, 100 per cent payments to the Federation Account on the allocated 445,000bpd of crude oil to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would be assured and tailored to provide palliative measures for the country.

He also said the policy would encourage market stability in the downstream petroleum sector; stabilise fuel supply in the country; discourage hoarding of products and reignite investors’ interests in setting up refineries in the country to cut the importation of petroleum products.

Military Confirms Arrest of Militants

Meanwhile, DHQ yesterday confirmed the arrest of suspected members of the NDA who had claimed responsibility for the recent attacks on oil and gas installations operated by Shell and Chevron.
The latest arrest, which is the first since the new group emerged, was disclosed by the Director of Defence Information, Brig-Gen. Rabe Abubakar.

“This is to confirm the arrest of some suspected members of Niger Delta Avengers; investigations are currently on going,” Abubakar said.

He assured the public that the “military will continue to do its best to safeguard strategic facilities and provide security to lives and property”.

He noted that the military action was in line with the military’s rules of engagement, adding that the arrested suspects were behind the recent attacks on Chevron’s oil facilities in the western Niger Delta.

The defence spokesman also urged community and traditional rulers and patriotic citizens to cooperate with the military in its efforts to get rid of criminals in the country.

Abubakar had in a previous statement vowed that the militants would be treated as criminals and that the security forces would leave no stone unturned to apprehend the perpetrators.

N’Delta Stakeholders Meet

Despite the arrests at the weekend, civilians in the Niger Delta and the military have commenced a series of consultations to arrest the upsurge in the insurgency.

At the meetings, which commenced last Thursday, were the Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Pulo Shield, Maj-General Alani Okunola; Brigade Commander, Second Brigade, Port Harcourt; retired generals from the region; ex-agitators; elders and opinion leaders, among others.

The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Brig.Gen. Paul Boroh—a prime mover of the meetings – confirmed the development to THISDAY on the phone, although he could not volunteer further details.

The consultations holding at the headquarters of the Second Brigade, Port Harcourt, are expected to run through May 24 and provide a potent response to the resurgent violence in the region.

Boroh, at the weekend also met with ex-agitators to find ways of restoring peace in the region. THISDAY gathered that the meeting, which was at his instance, was designed to find a lasting solution to the renewed militancy in parts of the region.

At the end of the meeting, the ex-agitators not only condemned the renewed violence, but totally dissociated themselves from the activities of the NDA.

In a terse statement captioned, “Ex-agitators of the Presidential Amnesty Programme Disassociate and Condemn in Totality the Activities of Niger Delta Avengers–NDA”, which was made available to THISDAY, they detached themselves from the group’s agitation for a republic and the ongoing criminal activities in the region. “We condemn it in totality,” the ex-militants said

Confirming the meeting, Boroh said it was held to explore solutions to the increasing militant activities of some criminal elements in the region.

Boroh disclosed that the ex-agitators were completely opposed to the renewed violent agitation in the region in whatever guise, but were also apprehensive that the federal government’s N20 billion budgetary allocation to the programme could scarcely sustain it.

According to him, the ex-agitators were afraid that the 2016 budgetary allocation was indicative that the government was angling towards abruptly stopping the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation) programme for ex-militants, with a subsisting two-year exit strategy in place.

Boroh said that they appealed to the federal government to review upwards the 2016 budgetary allocation to the Presidential Amnesty Programme to enable existing beneficiaries undergoing one form of training or the other –both locally and internationally to conclude them.

Group Blames Jonathan’s Loyalists for Violence

But as stakeholders in the region held consultations to stem the wave of attacks on oil facilities, a group called the National Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators (NDNDE-A) yesterday traced the renewed violence in the region to the doorsteps of those it called former President Goodluck Jonathan’s loyalists.
The group alleged that the renewed destructive activities were planned as an alternative to their reign ahead of the March 2015 presidential election.

In a statement issued yesterday, the National President of NCNDE-A, Israel Akpodoro, urged the former president to call members of the NDA to order, saying they were the ex-Nigerian leader’s boys.

Akpodoro alleged that the present violent activities were planned by the immediate past administration in January last year before the presidential election.

“The Niger Delta Avengers is a creation of Dr. Jonathan and aimed at thwarting any efforts made by the successive administration especially that of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration,” the statement said.

The threat, Akpodoro added, was planned at a well-attended meeting at the instance of Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State at the Government House, Yenagoa in January last year, with all the prominent ex-militants, including himself and senior officials of former President Jonathan’s government in attendance.

He alleged that the message from Jonathan was delivered by the then Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Hon. Kingsley Kuku.

The message, he alleged was that “all ex-militants from the region should return to the creeks preparatory for action should Buhari emerge victorious against their wish”.

Akpodoro claimed that he condemned the resolution and cautioned against placing the country on the path of anarchy in a bid to satisfy one man’s ambition, but he was bundled out of the venue on the orders of the conveners of the meeting.

“I was bundled out of the meeting but then that is reality of what Nigerians are witnessing today. Former President Jonathan created the monster, Niger Delta Avengers, and he alone can call them to order and that is what my group is asking him to do.

“Nigerians should hold the Ijaw leader, Jonathan, responsible for any possible collateral damage that may be incurred in the process of exterminating that destructive rag tag group with all its sympathisers in the region.
“Our common enemies in the Niger Delta region are those governors, ministers, special advisers, directors general, senators and other representatives from the region who participated in Jonathan’s five-year misrule using their offices to enrich themselves at the detriment of the general good.

“We must redirect our anger to those who cornered the dividends of democracy in the region buying fleets of airplanes, building mansions in choice cities of the world while their people live in abject poverty,” the group stated.