Nigeria's Moni Pulo Seen Shutting in Output After Attack

LONDON Jul 10, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Nigerian oil company Moni Pulo is expected to shut-in its production following an attack by militants on an oil production barge in the Calabar River in the Niger Delta, a trader of West African crude said Tuesday.

The Agbani barge, located in Cross River State, was ambushed Sunday by gunmen on speedboats.

Two workers, both oil consultants for Exprotech Nigeria, part of U.K.-based Expro International Group PLC (EXR.LN), were abducted during the attack. The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed one of the workers taken was British and the other is believed to be Bulgarian.

Although the barge attacked was an exploration vessel, it is understood Moni Pulo is will shut-in its production in the area, which the trader estimated at some 13,000 to 20,000 barrels a day.

No force majeure has yet been issued, the trader said, but it is thought the company will move to shut-in production as a precautionary measure amid security concerns, rather than to repair any damage incurred.

Moni Pulo Chairman and Chief Executive Chief Lulu-Briggs wasn't immediately available for comment.

Although it is still unclear who was behind the attack, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta denied responsibility in an e-mail to Dow Jones Newswires.

"It is more likely that the kidnapping was the work of criminal gangs, which are mushrooming at an alarming rate as they seek to extort cash payments in exchange for the safe release of the hostages," said analyst at Global Insight Kissy Agyeman. "Calabar, in the southeast of Nigeria, has been one of the less-volatile areas of the Niger Delta, thus this attack exemplifies the wide remit of militancy in the region, with attacks occurring indiscriminately.

"The targets for kidnappers have tended to be male, foreign oil-workers, although the net has now widened, as the abduction of (Margaret) Hill last week and the recent abduction of a female demonstrates," the analyst said.

In total around 14 foreign workers are thought to be held by militants in the swampy creeks of the Delta. More than 200 foreigners have been seized in the region over the last 18 months.

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