By: Mohammed Al-Absi
To be realistic, it’s neither practical nor sufficient to mourn over people’s looted wealth in a post on the social networking service Facebook. It is, however, just the right time to begin reading files and searching for those people who looted oil revenues and present a full statement on such people, showing just who is benefitting from this wealth. If now isn’t the right time to do so, when is?
Prime Minister Basindowa, as the Head of the Executive Authority, has the full authority to put limits in place on the looting or even misuse of oil wealth. All he has to do is direct the oil minister to cancel all the contracts which have been given out in illegal ways for the benefit of sheikhs or military leaders. These directions should include the two oil fields which have been granted to Sheikh Naji Al-Shaif, as has been reported by former Prime Minister Haidar Al-Attas.
If the former regime deprived the government of receiving the benefits of those two fields, it is not understandable – and nor is it acceptable – to see this problem continue; especially now, when we have an elected president and a government headed by a revolutionary. Moreover, all oil contracts should be approved by a Council of Ministers and the President before they are executed.
Dr. Haidar Al-Attas, in his speech to Jamal Benomar, said (in a video which can be seen on YouTube) that southern oil was given to military leaders and sheikhs. Here I quote: “There must be a draft, to reach development, security and good relations between the people of the south and north. Officials seem unwilling to prepare one as they found wealth and decided to divide it between them. Now, all of the oil fields are owned by sheikhs and officers. When a British Company made a request to the Oil Ministry to dig in two fields, they were told that the two fields belonged to Naji Al-Shaif. How was it given, even though it must be government property?”
Over! All of his speech is available at the following link:
I do support his speech and I myself demand that the ministers’ council take a firm decision to stop all these actions and cancel all privileges granted to influential people – including the two fields given to Al-Shaif. It should be proven that they belong to the government.
I showed interest in oil and gas issues in my articles and had the honor of founding an alliance against the 2010 liquefied gas contract. Here, I will discuss what Al-Attas said at the meeting in Cairo; though I support what he said, I disagree with him on the details.
Al-Attas stated that the two oil fields are located in Shaqra, Abyan governorate, and also that they are new – which he mentioned in attempt to indicate that we were speaking about a recent event. Every southern man knows that Abyan – and Shaqra in particular – was the battlefield in the fight between the army and Al-Qaeda militants for over a year. Before the war, it was under the control of Ansar Al-Shariah. According to Al-Jazeera, the army surrounded Shaqra until 6/14/2012, and the government announced its control over the governorate – which was described by the BBC as an Al-Qaeda stronghold on Friday, June 15th, 2012. Even after the army gained control, the security situation in the region was far from complete, as Ansar Al-Shariah carried out many suicide operations, the last of which came last October, killing five people. You can verify my words using this link:
The President should know that all people in Abyan know the exact security situation in the governorate, and in Shaqra in particular, whether we’re talking about the time before, during or after the war. Even the areas that didn’t hold battlefields were air passages for drones. All of this is to say that it’s impossible for any oil company, for mere security needs, to merely think of digging for oil in Shaqra or in Abyan over the last two or three years. It would have been illogical for any company to dig for oil while 100,000 families left their houses in the governorate to go on to live in miserable conditions in Adeni schools.
I wish Dr. Al-Attas would ask any of his friends in Sana’a about the company locations on Hadda Street, about how their security systems make you feel like you are heading to Guantanamo. The companies purchased full districts for their security needs, as they themselves have claimed.
Yemen’s security trade represents a profitable project and is one that’s constantly on the upswing. All the oil companies have houses for experts at production locations. The administration headquarter has 900 to 1,200 security guards. Using business language, we are talking about no less than $1,000 to $1,500 for each security soldier. Previously, companies would pay $70,000 to the Ministry of Defense to have their projects protected. Other companies, however, pay around$120,000 to influential figures for security protection, as they claim. Moreover, a European company provides bulletproof armored cars for the oil companies to move their senior officials around at $500 per day. All these costs are paid from helpless people’s money, and the government hasn’t changed anything in this regard and will continue to do the same.
I can firmly say that with the two terrorist operations at Seventy Meter Square and at the Police Academy, Yemen’s private sector joined the investment field in the war against terrorism. A member of the Clark family, owners of the Blackwater Security Company, stated, “The Blackwater Company owes the power and success it reached to Osama Bin Laden!”
Knowing all such information makes me tend to doubt the issue of the two fields at Shaqra, and also makes me feel that from the security perspective, it was impossible that it would happen. I’m not defending any particular person. However, I tend to believe in one possibility, which is that the company presented its project in 2006 or 2007 and that when reviewing the presidential decrees for oil contracts, it was found that the company was Italian, not British. Maybe Naji Al-Shaief was its agent, and maybe it got approval from the Yemeni government after competing with two other companies, one of which is American.
Nobody knows what happened next. Sheikh Tareq Al-Fadhli at once announced that he had joined the Southern Movement, and the security situation in Abyan then proceeded to deteriorate, which forced the Italian company to withdraw.
I still remember that when I attended the symposium entitled “Stop the War in Abyan,” someone told me that the war in Abyan started because of an oil field!