The United States security outfit, Blackwater USA, may have been deployed to the Niger Delta region to tackle the bombing campaign embarked upon by Niger Delta militants.
The Infrastructure News Checks revealed that the security outfit was contracted by oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region in concert with the Federal Government to tackle the spiraling campaign of bombing of oil and gas installations by militants protesting environmental degradation and marginalisation in the oil rich region.
The company owned by a Sundhurst trained retired military officer, Erik Prince, is an expert in the provision of alternative security for countries facing security threats but has faced litigations from US Department of Justice officials and Congressional investigative committees over the killing of 17 Iraqi civillians.
The deployment is seen in government circles as a response to the growing militancy in the region which has seen shrinking oil output.
Media reports claimed a Saudi Embassy official confirmed that President Buhari had signed a $285 million contract with Saudi Blackwater Securities headed by a Anwar Eshki, a Major General in the Saudi Arabian Army, to fight terrorism and militancy in Nigeria.
The organisation runs subsidiaries in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, United Arab Emirates among other countries for which Saudi Blackwater Security is one.
But further checks showed that operatives of the outfit are believed to have already deployed to the region disguised as oil and construction workers.
There are also concerns that the organisation may embark on human rights abuses while operating in the Niger Delta region.
The company, has, however, changed names several times following litigations arising from its poor human rights records.
The Wall Street Journal once reported that “Despite new ownership, a new board and new management, security contractor Xe Services LLC could never shake a troublesome nickname: the company formerly known as Blackwater.
Now, it’s the company formerly known as Xe.
“On Monday, Virginia-based Xe plans to unveil a new name—Academi—and new logo. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ted Wright, president and chief executive, said the name change aims to signal a strategy shift by one of the U.S. government’s biggest providers of training and security services.
Mr. Wright said Academi will try to be more “boring.”
Founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, the original Blackwater cultivated a special-operations mystique. But it was tarnished by a string of high-profile incidents, including a deadly 2007 shootout in Iraq that ultimately led to its reorganization and rebranding as Xe Services. Mr. Prince left the business in 2010, selling his stake to investor group USTC Holdings LLC.
There are also rising concerns that the organisation may embark on human rights abuses while operating in the Niger Delta region.
“This is not the solution. Dialogue remains the only viable option. Government should engage the governors and leaders of thought in the area. The people they are deploying are they not foreigners? They would be easy pickings for the militants who are familiar with the terrain”, an environmental activist, Harriman Mudock, said.
Writing for New York Times under the title “These Guns for Hire”, Managing Editor of Discovery Channel, Ted Koppelmay, said:
‘So, what about the inevitable next step — a defensive military force paid for directly by the corporations that would most benefit from its protection? If, for example, an insurrection in Nigeria threatens that nation’s ability to export oil (and it does), why not have Chevron or Exxon Mobil underwrite the dispatch of a battalion or two of mercenaries?
‘Chris Taylor, the vice president for strategic initiatives and corporate strategy for Blackwater USA, wanted to be sure I understood that such a thing could only happen with the approval of the Nigerian government and at least the tacit understanding of Washington. But could Blackwater provide a couple of battalions under those circumstances? “600 people in a battalion,” he answered.
“I could source 1,200 people, yes. There are people all over the world who have honorably served in their military or police organizations. I can go find honorable, vetted people, recruit them, train them to the standard we require.
“It could have the merit of stabilizing oil prices, thereby serving the American national interest, without even tapping into the federal budget. Meanwhile, oil companies could protect some of their more vulnerable overseas interests without the need to embroil Congress in the tiresome question of whether Americans should be militarily engaged in a sovereign third world nation”, he said.
He said the owner of Blackwater Securities is moving far away from investigative authorities in the US and constantly changing his company name.
“For Mr. Prince, the foreign battalion is a bold attempt at reinvention. He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, Congressional investigators and Justice Department officials he is convinced worked in league to portray Blackwater as reckless.
“He sold the company last year, but in April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007. To help fulfill his ambitions, Mr. Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, obtained another multimillion-dollar contract to protect a string of planned nuclear power plants and to provide cybersecurity. He hopes to earn billions more, the former employees said, by assembling additional battalions of Latin American troops for the Emiratis and opening a giant complex where his company can train troops for other governments.
“Knowing that his ventures are magnets for controversy, Mr. Prince has masked his involvement with the mercenary battalion. His name is not included on contracts and most other corporate documents, and company insiders have at times tried to hide his identity by referring to him by the code name “Kingfish.” But three former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, and two people involved in security contracting described Mr. Prince’s central role’, he penned.
Nigerian government is yet to respond.
Academi is an American private military company, originally founded in 1997 by former Navy SEAL officer Erik Prince. Formerly known as Blackwater, the company was renamed XE Services in 2009. It was renamed Academi in 2011, after the company was acquired by a group of private investors in late 2010.The new investors instituted a board of directors and new senior management, Prince retained the rights to the name Blackwater and has no affiliation with Academi. Blackwater received widespread publicity in 2007, when a group of its employees killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 in Nisour Square, Baghdad for which four guards were convicted in a U.S. court.
Academi provides security services to the United States federal government on a contractual basis. Since 2003, the group has provided services to the CIA, including a 2010 contract for $250 million.[ In 2013, Academi subsidiary International Development Solutions received an approximately $92 million contract for State Department security guards.