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Nigeria: Oil

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 8 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effect of the refusal by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta to take part in peace initiatives in the Delta area of Nigeria on the safety of international oil workers. (175585)

We call on all parties in the Delta to engage in dialogue towards a peaceful solution to the problems of the Delta. Nigerian President Yar'Adua has made resolution of the Delta crisis one of the main priorities for his term in office. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has been specifically tasked with taking forward dialogue with a range of groups in the Delta and President Yar'Adua has also been personally engaged. In view of this, a Delta summit is intended to be held in early 2008, bringing together federal and state governments, militant groups and representatives from the local community. The UK has offered to support these efforts where we can add value.

Recently, the Government of Nigeria has demonstrated greater readiness to use the Joint Task Force (JTF), a combined military and civilian police force, to provide greater security in the Delta. The JTF was successful in stopping a particularly intense outbreak of gang violence in Port Harcourt in August 2007. We believe that both the increased dialogue and the use of the JTF have contributed to the fact that there has been a very significant reduction in the number of expatriate kidnappings since early October.

However, the risk of violence remains high and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice continues to advise against all travel to the Delta States of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers, including Port Harcouit. It advises British nationals in these States to leave due to the very high risk of kidnapping and other armed attacks. The FCO also advises against all travel to riverine areas of Cross River State and against all but essential travel to Akwa Ibom State for the same reasons.

The FCO remains in close contact about security with international oil companies both through UK Trade and Investment and consular officials in Lagos, and through representatives in London and Abuja.