Cablegate: Declaration of Disaster: Displacement of Itsekiri

Published: Thu 17 Apr 2003 05:27 PM
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. The Ambassador hereby declares the situation in the
Warri North, Warri South, and Warri Southwest Local
Government Areas (LGAs) of Delta State as a man-made
disaster. In accordance with USAID/DCHA Office of U.S.
Foreign Disaster Assistance guidance, the Ambassador
requests immediate OFDA support of $50,000 in order to
provided emergency humanitarian relief assistance to the
approximately 9,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in
this area.
2. The affected LGAs are located in the Niger Delta, a
region of the country that accounts for around 90 percent
of Nigeria's export earnings and 80 percent of the
government's revenue, but which remains one of the least
developed regions in Nigeria with per capita income well
below the national average of $280. This disparity has
contributed to a regular cycle of conflict in this oil-
producing region over the past several years. However,
this is the first time that the conflict has been so severe
in its impact on the oil flows to the world market.
3. The current conflict between two major ethnic groups in
the region, the Ijaws and the Itsekiri, was ostensibly
provoked by the Ijaws' grievance over a recently redrawn
division of electoral wards in the Warri Southwest LGA.
The Ijaws are the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria
and the new division has been perceived as giving rival
Itsekiri political dominance over an area heavily populated
by Ijaws. Fighting between the Nigerian military and Ijaw
youth over illegal "bunkering" (theft by siphoning) of oil
from pipelines is also seen as a contributing factor.
Regardless of the true source of the conflict, starting on
March 13, Ijaw youth attacked and razed 28 Itsekiri
villages. In response, the Nigerian Navy and Army fired on
Ijaw villages.
4. According to the International Foundation for Education
and Self-Help (IFESH) -- a U.S. NGO with office, staff and
projects in Warri and the surrounding area -- the conflict
has left approximately 8,000 Itsekiri IDPs living outdoors
in common areas in Warri town and Sapele (about 45
kilometers north of Warri town) since mid-March: 2,500 of
the Itsekiri IDPs are currently in Warri town and 5,500 are
in Sapele. An additional 1,000 ethnic Ijaw IDPs are also
living without shelter in Obe-Ijoh, the seat of Warri
Southwest LGA. Itsekiri and Ijaw leaders generally confirm
these figures.
5. On March 20, in response to the severity of violence
associated with the conflict, both Chevron and Shell closed
down wells and flow stations in the area and evacuated
their personnel to Warri town, Port Harcourt and Lagos.
Shell and Chevron also assisted in the evacuation of
thousands of villagers displaced by the fighting. The
resulting "shut-in" of oil production translated in the
lost production of approximately 800,000 barrels/day, equal
to more than one-percent of global demand and over 40
percent of Nigeria's production. Lost revenue to both the
Nigerian government and the oil companies could exceed as
much as $1.5 billion.
6. Because of a lack of resources and a deep distrust of
the government by the affected ethnic groups, the Federal
Government of Nigeria and the Delta State Government are
unable to fulfill the immediate humanitarian needs of these
7. The Federal Government (Office of the Presidency) has
been contacted formally and we anticipate shortly a
response indicating GON acceptance of this USG (OFDA)
disaster relief through a U.S. NGO.
8. Providing relief to address the humanitarian needs of
those affected by this conflict is strongly in the USG's
interest. The shut-down of oil production in this area
adversely affected global oil supplies and prices: as the
largest purchaser of Nigerian crude oil, the US is
particularly sensitive to fluctuations in Nigeria's oil
production. The Niger Delta is also home to the largest
concentration of U.S. investment in continental Africa.
More generally, mitigating a humanitarian emergency in the
region will underscore U.S. concerns for the people of
Nigeria in this strategically critical area.
9. Given, the lack of GON capacity to respond to the
situation, the willingness of Nigeria's Federal Government
to accept USG disaster relief through a U.S. NGO, and the
strategic importance of the region to the U.S., this
disaster relief request meets USAID/DCHA requirements for
10. The Embassy proposes to use IFESH to respond to the
immediate needs of the IDPs because it is uniquely
positioned to provide this relief aid efficiently and
equitably. IFESH is the only U.S. NGO operating in the
affected swamplands of Delta State. It has earned the
respect of both Ijaw and Itsekiri communities -- no easy
feat in this conflict-plagued land -- implementing
community development and conflict resolution activities
with USAID and Chevron support. IFESH, founded by the late
Reverend Leon Sullivan, is also well known to USAID
throughout the world. Equally important, the Nigerian Red
Cross -- the usual vehicle for delivery of disaster relief
here -- is in our view unsuitable for the efficient and
equitable disbursement of relief aid in this region. A
prominent Itsekiri leader recently told the Embassy that
her people would not trust the Red Cross because it is seen
as an arm of the government and relatively unknown to the
local communities. This view was echoed by Warri staff of
11. According to an assessment provided by IFESH, an
estimated 4,000 of the IDPs are in immediate need of
bedding, clothing, food and counseling. IFESH workers in
Warri claim that shelter material (e.g. tents or tarps) are
not/not needed as the IDPs feel vulnerable to attack in
these; the IDPs prefer and are using enclosed spaces such
as public schools and sheltered stadiums. The projected
budget for this OFDA relief assistance is as follows:
--500 sets of Bedding at Naira 4,000/set = $15,335
--Food for 4,000 for 14 days at Naira 50/pp/pd = $23,077
--4,000 sets of clothing at Naira 300/set = $9,230
--Counseling at three sites = $2,092
TOTAL: $49,734.
12. Post will encourage Chevron, which already co-funds
IFESH projects in the Delta, to contribute to the relief
effort. In addition to the airlift provided to 2,000 IDPs
from its operational compound, Chevron initially provided
some food relief to the displaced. We will also encourage
Shell, though not a U.S. company, to provide similar
13. If OFDA approves this request for disaster assistance,
Post's USAID Mission would provide the funding directly to
the Nigeria office of IFESH for immediate procurement of
relief supplies on the local market. IFESH certifies its
ability to find these items easily on the local market and
asserts its capacity to deliver them in a timely and
accountable manner to the desired IDP recipients. Full
accounting and evaluation reports will be provided to the
USAID MDRO by IFESH after the relief delivery is completed.
14. Points of contact for this request are: 1) Post's
Mission Disaster Relief Officer (MDRO) Denise Rollins, at
office: (234-9) 234-2175 or 234-2189; home: (234-9) 413-
5740; cell phone: (234-803) 408-1034; e-mail: or; and (2)
Post's Corporate Responsibility Officer (CRO) Mark Taylor
at 234-9-523-0916 or (cellphone) 234-80359-00448, email:
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