Cablegate: Nigeria: Escravos Update - Crisis Worsens

Published: Mon 24 Mar 2003 06:56 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Proprietary information please hold closely.
2. (SBU) Summary. The situation at ChevronTexaco's
Escravos compound has deteriorated markedly since the March
20 arrival of government troops to quell the confrontation
between Ijaw and Itsikiri villagers over local political
power. Approximately 100 Amcits are inside of the compound
along with another 100 expatriates, 1800 Nigerian employees,
and 900 (of an original 2000) Itsikiri displaced persons
(DP). An unspecified number of Nigerian troops have also
taken refuge inside the compound, having been surprised at
how well the Ijaw villagers outside the compound are armed.
The company hopes to evacuate all of its employees and the
displaced persons via two Antonovs that are scheduled to
arrive sometime tomorrow from South Africa. There have been
no injuries since March 17 when one Nigerian catering
contractor was killed and one injured. ChevronTexaco's
onshore and swamp 140,000 bpd production has ceased and
plans are to gradually shut down the remaining 300,000 bpd.
(Note: Omole asked that this last figure be treated as
confidential.) ChevronTexaco's security Manager has
indicated that the company may ask for USG assistance in
approaching the GON if the situation does not improve by
Saturday, March 22. End Summary.
3. (SBU) On March 21 at 1440, Sola Omole, General
Manager, Government and Public Affairs Department for
ChevronTexaco called Econoff to report on the escalating
tensions between warring villagers around ChevronTexaco's
Escravos Tank Farm and to ask for USG assistance in
contacting the GON. Omole reported that the Ijaws outside
the compound and security forces inside were shooting at one
another. In a subsequent conversation, ChevronTexaco's
security manager Ray Keel indicated that if the situation
does not improve, the company might ask for USG help on
Saturday, March 22. As of 1800, Chevron has shut down its
onshore and swamp operations, halted the production of
140,000 bpd of crude oil, and hopes to evacuate all of its
non-essential personnel and the villagers who are seeking
refuge on the compound.
4. (SBU) Omole requested that the Ambassador use his
office to intercede at the level of the Nigerian presidency.
Although he was not specific about what he was asking for,
Omole indicated that the situation in Escravos was
deteriorating. (Comment: We learned in a subsequent
conversation that the President had been informed of
ChevronTexaco's situation through Carl Masters, an associate
of former Ambassador Andrew Young. End comment.) Omole
also spoke to the British High Commissioner.
5. (SBU) ConGen RSO met with ChevronTexaco security
officers who largely confirmed Omole's assessment of the
situation. The Safety Manager told the CG and the RSO that
he is considering asking the Ambassador for assistance, but
the company was also approaching the government from other
angles. Later, Keel told CG that the company has contacted
NNPC and the Nigerian military. If these representations
prove unsuccessful by tomorrow, the company may ask for USG
assistance to press the government to stop the fighting.
6. (SBU) In separate conversations, Keel told CG and RSO
that the Ijaws are better armed with AK-47s and RPGs than
anyone - including the Nigerian military - expected them to
be. Having caused the Nigerian security forces to retreat
onto Chevron's property, the Ijaws are now accusing the
company of colluding with their Itsikiri enemies who are
also inside the compound.
7. (SBU) Chevron is awaiting the arrival of two Antonovs
(there were previous reports of a C-130) from South Africa
via Uganda to evacuate the expatriates, the Nigerian staff,
and the last 900 of the 2000 refugees remaining on its
compound. The planes are expected to arrive at the Escravos
airstrip no sooner than Saturday, March 22.
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