Violence And Kidnapping In Nigeria Makes Its Way To Houston Courtrooms

Kidnappings, pipeline bombings and vigilantism has become a way of life for both offshore oil workers stationed along the coast of Nigeria as well as the oppressed native insurgency groups who carry out the violence.
(Check out this week's feature about one Texan's remarkable survival experience after being kidnapped by militants and held hostage in the Nigerian jungle for three weeks).

Since many of the offshore companies are based in Houston, a good number of the lawsuits filed by rig workers against their employers, often contracted to do offshore work by oil giants such as Shell and Chevron, get filed in Harris County.

A pair of Norwegians and a pair of Ukrainians, for instance, recently filed a negligence lawsuit in Harris County District Court against Woodlands-based Trico Marine Services after the four men were allegedly kidnapped and held hostage by Nigerian militants.

According to the lawsuit, Jarle Johansen, Roger Bjerkas, Aleksander Myklaetes and Timofei Belous were working for Trico Marine Services on August 8, 2006 when nine militants armed with machine guns boarded their vessel and took them hostage. The four men allege that the gunmen dragged them to a remote village, where they were regularly assaulted and threatened to death for more than a week.

The four oil workers claim that two months before they were kidnapped, other ex-pat oilmen were taken hostage from the same location. As a result, the lawsuit states, the four men told their employer that they were scared and asked the company to either beef up security or evacuate them. In response, Trico Marine Services refused to increase security, "derided [the men] for overreacting and assured them that they were safe," the lawsuit states. The men were then allegedly taken hostage.

The four men claim they suffered permanent physical and mental injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and accuse their employer of failing to provide, among numerous claims, adequate safety equipment and security measures.

According to Oyibos Online, which tracks the hostages taken in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, insurgency groups so far this year have kidnapped 64 ex-pats, four of which have been killed.

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Chris Vogel
Contact: Chris Vogel