May 10, 2006

US oil executive shot dead in Nigeria

By Austin Ekeinde

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) - An executive of the U.S.
oil service company Baker Hughes was killed in an apparently
targeted attack in Nigeria's southeastern oil city of Port
Harcourt on Wednesday, authorities said.

It was not immediately clear if the attack was related to a
five-month campaign by Niger Delta militants to cripple the oil
industry in the world's eighth largest exporter, but a diplomat
and an oil company source said they thought not.

"The American was shot by a man on a motorcycle. The
motorcycle pulled up beside him and shot him," Rivers State
Police Commissioner Samuel Agbetuyi told Reuters.

The Houston-based company, which drills oil wells and
performs other services for big oil companies, was not
immediately available for comment.

An oil company source said the gunman on the motorcycle
appeared to be working in coordination with a car, and it
looked like a targeted assassination of the American, who held
a managerial role in the company.

Militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the
Niger Delta (MEND), whose attacks have cut Nigerian oil exports
by a quarter, threatened this week to carry out attacks on oil
industry targets and individuals.

However, they have treated American oil workers well during
kidnappings, and the Port Harcourt killing did not bear any
similarity to previous MEND attacks.

A diplomat said: "It looks like a targeted attack on that
individual but my guess is that it was a private matter."


The oil industry source said Baker Hughes had decided to
pull its staff out of Port Harcourt to Lagos as a security

Port Harcourt is the largest city in the delta, and several
oil multinationals have major offices there, including Royal
Dutch Shell and Agip.

"It helps to reinforce the gloomy picture in Nigeria. A lot
of sub-contractors are worried about working in Port Harcourt
now," the oil industry source said.

Even if the attack is not linked to MEND, it reinforces a
trend of rising violent crime in the region, which pumps all of
the OPEC member nation's oil.

The violence stems from deep-seated resentment by many
inhabitants of the delta, where impoverished villages stand
close to multi-billion-dollar oil facilities.

Many residents of the vast wetlands region feel cheated out
of the riches being pumped from their tribal lands.

Neglect and rampant corruption have eroded trust in
government, while communal rivalries and abuses by the military
have fueled the rise of well-armed community militias.

They have taken advantage of the absence of law and order
to engage in large-scale theft of crude oil, extortion,
blackmail and kidnapping against oil companies, who rely on
ill-equipped and poorly trained police and military to protect