Niger Delta: Ijaw militia seizes Chevron installation

The Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, a militia group from Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta region, has seized a pumping station in protest of the arrest of its leader. More than 100 armed men in boats stormed the Idama flow-station, sources close to the Chevron oil company said.

The occupation comes after militia leader Mujahid Dokubu-Asari was remanded in custody for two weeks by a judge in the capital, Abuja. He demands more control of oil resources for the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta.

The group’s deputy leader, Alali Horsefall, threatened action against seven other oil installations in the area. “We will blow up everything. We will set fire to them,” he said.

A company source told Reuters that only about 8,000 barrels per day were affected at Idama. Chevron spokesman Femi Odumabolaims said Chevron shut down the station after “youths disarmed the government security forces around it.”

The Niger Delta remains one of Nigeria’s poorest regions, although it accounts for most of the 2.4 million barrels of oil annually produced by Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer.

At his first court appearance since his arrest, Asari said the government was acting like a “high dictatorship,” citing the arrest of his lawyer, Uche Okoko. “I came from Port Harcourt to bail him out and I’ve been arrested for treason,” Okoko shouted to reporters as he was led off.

Justice Minister Bayo Ojo said Asari would be charged with “treason and unlawful assembly.”

A statement by the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force warned of “grave mayhem” if Asari is not released. Hundreds of soldiers and riot police have set up checkpoints in Nigeria’s oil capital, Port Harcourt.

Last year, the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force contributed to a sharp rise in world oil prices when it threatened war against oil companies. (BBC, Sept. 22)

See our last post on the oil struggle in Nigeria.