Wed, Jun 25, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Oil executives meet Nigerian legislators, top military officials

AFP , LAGOS

Nigeria’s top military and security officials met on Monday with oil company executives and parliamentarians to try to thrash out a solution to the worsening security situation in the Niger Delta, which has slashed Nigeria’s oil output.

House Committee on Petroleum Upstream chairman Tom Brisibe, who convened the meeting, said: “We asked the international oil companies about their internal security arrangements and the arrangements they have with the Nigerian security forces. We asked the companies what they feel should be done.”

“One solution that some are thinking about is increased active participation from local host communities — that is active ownership of the assets in the oil industry as much as practicable,” Bisibe said.

Ann Pickard, Shell’s most senior executive in Nigeria, said the company would like “to get back to production as soon as possible at Bonga.”

The big question is how.

It was Thursday’s attack on Bonga, the deep-sea field operated by Shell 120km off the coast of Nigeria that sparked the panic. Until Thursday such fields had been seen as being safe from militant attacks.

When he came to power just over a year ago, Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua appeared more willing than his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, to hold talks with the armed groups in the Delta.

The attack on Bonga has cast doubts on whether talks work any better than the more strong-arm tactics Obasanjo tended to favor. Observers warn that Yar’Adua’s entourage still counts a number of hawks.

“The government needs to crack down hard,” an executive with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation said shortly after the Bonga attack.

Yar’Adua himself responded to the Bonga attack by ordering the military and security forces to “take all necessary measures” to arrest those responsible and bring them to justice.

He then deployed two small warships in the waters around Bonga on Saturday.

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