No fewer than 700 oil workers, including expatriates, are being evacuated by International Oil Companies (IOCs) and their local counterparts from oil and gas platforms in Bayelsa State.
This came as the Federal Government is considering the request of the United States of America (USA) to help her tackle militancy in the Niger Delta, it has been learnt.
The mass exodus of workers from Bayelsa State began when the militants shifted attacks on installations to the state.
The group carried out the first known major at-tack on oil installation in the state at the weekend.
The affected facility belongs to Chevron, which has, for the umpteenth time, been the major victim of attacks by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
Bayelsa is the second major state after Delta State that had suffered this fate.
Delta State had been drained of expatriates and oil workers by Shell, Chevron and other companies operating in the state.
Expatriates with IOCs in Nigeria, it was gathered, were demanding that their companies post them out of the country pending the resolution of the incessant attacks on oil and power Chevroninstallations in the Niger Delta.
The expats’ demands have heightened fears in the oil firms, which have now conveyed their concerns through the Oil Producers Technical Session (OPTS) to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
The attacks claimed by the Avengers, a new militant group in the Niger Delta, had earlier crashed Nigeria’s crude and condensate production by over one million barrels per day.
Besides the slide in output, which is a big economic issue for Nigeria, the renewed militancy in the Delta is now seen as a big security issue.
The expatriates, it was gathered, have been advised by their countries to stay away from the oil-rich Niger Delta and, if possible, from Nigeria.
“The individual companies have made the expatriates the number one priority in the evacuation of staff from the troubled region based on the belief that they are endangered species, but some expatriates went further with requests to be posted out of the country pending when the new Niger Delta question is answered,” the security source at one of the three biggest oil companies in the country said.
He added that part of the pleas by the OPTS group to the minister is for the government to protect their investments and other business concerns in the region.
“They also considered possible temporary lock down of major facilities considered security risk until the issue is addressed,” he said.
The business and security risks in the country, further checks revealed, are now considered by new investors to be getting out of hands.
The prospective investors consider Angola ahead of Nigeria whose business and security risks are heightening, while oil reserves depletion continues to worsen due to drought in investments.
Shell, Chevron and Eni had, at different times since the commencement of the renewed attacks in the Niger Delta, suffered impairment on their facilities.
Aside from attacks, which had cut the crude production of all these companies by 50 per cent, the gas production for power and other businesses had also been seriously affected.
Gunmen had, last April, killed three soldiers and two policemen in a security post in two separate attacks in Delta State.
The raids took place a day after five police officers were shot dead in the same region. Oil workers’ union had called for the evacuation of oil workers from the region, but the IOCs concentrated the evacuation on Delta State where attacks by Avengers were earlier concentrated.
“The best thing for any reasonable company to do is evacuate its workforce,” said Cogent Ojobor, chairman of the Warri branch of the NUPENG.
Chika Onuegbu, chairman of the trade union in Rivers State, said Chevron had evacuated some staff from the Delta following a similar move by Shell.
“There is high alert around various installations around the Niger Delta due to recent attacks,” he said.
“Those evacuated are where their platforms have been attacked, but others are working.”
Meanwhile, a senior staff at Chevron Nigeria Limited said that Kachikwu, revealed at a meeting with representatives of his company and other IOCs in Abuja, that the US Government has continued to pressurise the Federal Government, which is now considering the US offer.
“The minister told everyone present at the meeting, including the service chiefs and representatives of all oil majors, that the government is considering all peaceful means, including the US offer of assistance, to get a lasting solution to the renewed attacks in Niger Delta,” the source at Chevron said.
He maintained that the country was considering all peaceful options, includ ing this US offer, to end militancy in the Niger Delta.
The offer of assistance starts from intermediary role in negotiation between the Nigerian government and the militants to logistic and military intelligence sharing if required.
The US has a major stake in ExxonMobil, world’s biggest oil firm from America, which is second biggest oil firm in Nigeria in terms of assets and production.
Chevron, the US second biggest oil company and third biggest in Nigeria, has suffered more major attacks on its oil wells and other installations by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) since the renewed militancy in the oil-rich region.
The militants, whose operations have reduced the country’s 2.2 million barrels per day crude production potential, are targeting Chevron on a weekly basis in the last few months.
The USA Consular General to Nigeria, John Bray, had earlier said that his country was ready to help Nigeria establish peace and end the ongoing violence in the South-South by the Avengers and other militant groups.
The Consular General stated this when he visited the former national chairman of Association of Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (ATROMPCON) and Pere of Seimbiri Kingdom, Delta State, HRM Charles Ayemi-Botu, at his Edjeba Palace Annex, Warri.
“We are looking at whatever we can do to assist the Nigerian Government in establishing a peaceful, prosperous region in the South-South of Nigeria,” Bray had said.