Black Delta (Excerpts)

PROLOGUE

THE ULTRA-FATHOM OILRIG, THE NIGER-DELTA

Sometime in February 2007

The weather was calm as was the Atlantic Ocean south of the Niger-Delta region. It was close to mid-night and everything was pitch dark. The moon which had been out earlier in the night was now obscured from view by huge dark clouds.

The speed of the wind had increased, but it didn’t bother the men on the four speed boats, which were equipped with twin 150mph engines. The boats were being navigated with great skill over the rolling waves of the ocean which sometimes rose up to more than thirty feet high in the air.

Each boat carried five men. Some of the riders wore stocking masks, while others had their masks fashioned out of pieces of cloths in the style of Ninjas which was made famous by the Hollywood Ninja movies of the 80s and the early 90s. A few others were bare faced.

They looked determined. Their grim expressions and the way they held their weapons said it all. They were armed with machine guns, AK47 assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. A few also had sheathed daggers fastened to the waistbands of their trousers.

This was the most daring raid they’d ever attempted. They wanted to send a message to the government that no place or oil installation in the region was beyond their reach. They needed to prove a point, and they were determined to do so. They wanted the government to take them very serious, much more than it had been doing. They also wanted the government to dread them for what they are capable of doing.

Their destination was the Ultra-Fathom, a deep water offshore oil drilling rig which was way outside the country’s shores, about seventy-two kilometres from land. This particular rig was nesting on the edge of Nigeria’s continental shelf. It was owned by a consortium of oil companies with the largest share belonging to Unicorn Petroleum, a British and French company. The Ultra-Fathom was operated by Unicorn Petroleum.

About two thousand metres to the Ultra-Fathom, those still yet to put on their masks put them on, weapons were locked and loaded, and every other thing was put in place in readiness for the attack.

A thousand metres from the oilrig, they began manoeuvring into various pre-agreed formations ready for the assault. Three of the four boats broke off from the boat in front to take up positions which would enable them mount the huge floating oilrig from four different directions. A strategy which would enable them press home the advantage of a surprise attack.

When they were some five hundred metres from the oilrig, a man on each boat picked-up a rocket propelled grenade in preparation as they waited for their leader to signal the beginning of the attack.

 

Sergeant Kunle Bamgbose, a thirty years old soldier of the Nigeria army stretched as he got up from the chair he had been sitting on. He was struggling to stay awake like he always did every time he was on night duty. The cold winds sweeping the ocean at night, the muffled rumbling of the ocean, and the calls of the occasional seabird were powerful forces to contend with not to fall asleep.

He walked over to the edge of the mammoth sized floating oilrig to stretch his legs. He walked as close as he could dare to the edge. He was afraid of heights, but he had kept that information to himself. It never ceased to amaze him how huge the floating oilrig was. If he’d had the opportunity to get a university education, he would have studied engineering, what type though, he didn’t know. He’d never bothered to think about it.

As he tried without success to stifle a yawn, he thought he heard the sound of an engine quite distinct from that of the powerful generators running on natural gas which powered the oilrig. He listened harder, but he couldn’t hear anything. The sound seemed to have disappeared.

He had learnt a lot about winds and sounds since he got posted to the Ultra-Fathom about three months ago. He had found out sounds were subject to the direction the wind was blowing to or from. May be the wind had blown the sound in another direction, he thought. Or, there was never a sound in the first place and he had only imagined it.

He heard the sound again when the wind carrying it blew it in his direction. Before he could make-up his mind on what it was, or whether to call it in to the captain in-charge of the security team stationed at the oilrig, he saw a little light flying fast through the darkness straight in his direction.

He had very little time to decide if it was something dangerous before the little light landed behind him with a loud bang and a bright flash. Something searing hot, he later found out to be shrapnel hit him in the back, just as a powerful force flung him up into the air, and over the side of the seven storey high oilrig. He realised he was falling, going down head first towards the ocean which was dark, mysterious and uninviting in the pitch darkness.

 

The masked men fired rocket propelled grenades across the oilrig taking care not to hit any inflammable substance. It was a calculated risk they were willing to take to ensure they destabilised any defensive forces in place because they were at a great disadvantage on their speed boats against whoever was at the top of the oilrig which was about ten storeys high from the water.

While the oilrig was thrown into chaos, masked men mounted it from different directions in attack. They used the emergency steel ladders constructed onto the sides of the huge steel structure. It took them less than a minute to reach one of the middle floors where the living quarters on the oilrig are located.

They kicked the doors in and charged into the rooms one after the other. They grabbed everyone with a foreign looking complexion they could find, dragged them to the edge of the floor and pushed them over it.  The surprised men screamed in fear as they fell towards the ocean. As the men landed one after the other with huge splashes, they were fished out of the ocean and tied up by the men waiting in the boats.

The soldiers who had already run to the top of the oilrig to find out what was happening had to run back down when they realized the danger was beneath them. When they ran down to stop the attackers, they ran into an ambush.

The masked men had a gunman waiting behind each of the four metal stairs which ran through all five levels of the oilrig. The soldiers were cut down with bullets as they ran down from the upper floors. They didn’t get a single moment to fire a shot to defend themselves.

When they had collected everyone with a foreign complexion they could find on that floor, they ran to the edge and dived into the ocean which had become frothy from the boats speeding all over it. They were helped back up onto the boats by their comrades. When every one of them had been helped out of the ocean, the boats turned and sped off towards the mainland leaving raging fires and death on the oilrig behind them.