Nigeria converts US Coast Guard vessel for pipeline patrols

Feb 27, 2004 01:00 AM

A donated US Coast Guard ship sailed to Nigeria, where navy commanders said they would rig it with cannon and machine guns to guard international oil production against pirates and militants.
The newly renamed N.N.S. Obula, which arrived in the commercial capital of Lagos following a 60-day voyage from Guam, is one of seven vessels the United States is donating to Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer. Three ships arrived last year and three more vessels are expected in coming months.

The ship, with an estimated worth of $ 3.5 mm, will be refitted with cannon and machine guns to battle militants and criminal gangs along the coast and the winding waterways of the violence-torn southern Niger Delta, said Lt. Commander Mohammed Wabi, spokesman for Nigeria's navy command post in Lagos.
"We will use the ships... to check the activities of those who steal crude oil," Wabi said. "The ships will be fully geared with guns and such military equipment you would expect a navy ship to have."

Nigerian Vice Admiral Samuel Afolayan called upon the ship's new crew to "end the trouble in the Niger Delta," where ethnic and political militants frequently attack multinational oil installations. US Consul-General Robyn Hinson-Jones led an American delegation attending the vessel's official handover to Nigeria.
Activists and militants frequently sabotage oil facilities and kidnap workers, accusing the firms of colluding with Nigeria's government to deprive the impoverished, swampy region's residents of oil revenues.

Nigeria estimates it loses more than 10 % of its daily oil exports of more than 2 mm barrels to criminals siphoning crude from pipelines in the creeks and marshlands of the Niger Delta into barges and ships for sale abroad.
Authorities believe the illegal trade is the source of funds for illegal guns and ammunition used by ethnic militias in the region, where violence killed hundreds last year and severely disrupted operations of oil majors including ChevronTexaco and Shell.

Nigeria is the fifth-biggest supplier of US oil imports.

Source: Associated Press
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