African News

Nigerian Rebels Take Over Oil Facilities

25 September 2005 at 01:33 | 527 views

Militants loyal to Nigerian rebel leader Moujahid Dokubo-Asari said they had taken over several oil facilities in the Niger Delta on Thursday, as Nigerian officials said the militia leader would be charged with treason.

Dokubo-Asari, the head of Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) who has repeatedly clashed with the Nigerian authorities over oil issues, was arrested two days ago.

He appeared in court on Thursday where a judge ordered he be detained for a fortnight while prosecutors prepared their case.

“This is the highest form of dictatorship,” Dokubo-Asari, wearing a blue robe, told reporters before he was whisked away in a police van.

Police sources said the militia leader had been arrested following comments he made in a recent newspaper interview about fighting for the disintegration of Nigeria.

Outside the court on Thursday, Justice Minister Bayo Ojo said formal charges of unlawful assembly and treason, which carries the death penalty, would be brought against Dokubo-Asari within two weeks.

“Nobody can intimidate the government and the government will never fold its arms and allow people to overawe it,” Ojo said.

Dokubo-Asari’s NDPVF had threatened on Wednesday to unleash mayhem in the Niger Delta, which accounts for nearly all of Nigeria’s 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, unless their leader was released.

On Thursday, his aides said oil facilities run by Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell had been captured.

“This morning we took over two flow stations belonging to Chevron and one belonging to Shell,” the NDPVF’s number two Alali Horsefall told IRIN. “And we are going to take more.”

A Chevron official confirmed that the company’s Idama facility had been overrun by armed militiamen, who cruised up in several speedboats, but declined to provide further details.

Royal Dutch Shell did not confirm or deny that one of its facilities had been targeted but Reuters news agency reported that non-essential staff had been evacuated from one of the company’s oil platforms.

The oil giant has also asked employees at its headquarters in the oil hub Port Harcourt to stay away from work in view of the deteriorating security situation.

Hundreds of police reinforcements have been sent to the delta this week as tensions have escalated.

Militants armed with machetes and assault rifles have been demonstrating in Port Harcourt, with some burning tyres in the streets and others blocking a major road, witnesses said.

However, it is unclear just what manpower or firepower the NDPVF has.

Last year threats by Dokubo-Asari to target the oil industry helped send world oil prices to then-record levels. His followers fought gun battles with troops and major violence was only averted after the militia leader met with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Dokubo-Asari agreed to a disarmament deal, handing in hundreds of weapons in exchange for amnesty and cash.

A self-styled revolutionary, Dokubo-Asari is viewed as a hero by Ijaws, the dominant ethnic group in the Niger Delta region, for that inhabitants have a greater share of and control over the oil weath.

The Niger Delta has been wracked by unrest for years, because ethnic minorities of the area feel cheated out of their wealth and resent the joint ventures run by the Nigerian government and international oil companies.

Credit: IRIN News

Photo: Dokubo-Asari, Nigerian rebel chief.