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Houston Chronicle: Nigerian picked to head division

Houston Chronicle: Nigerian picked to head division

“analysts said was a bid to appease Nigerian unions and ethnic groups threatening production shutdowns”

Associated Press

Posted 21 July 04

LAGOS, NIGERIA – Royal Dutch-Shell Group of Companies named a Nigerian to head its largest African subsidiary Tuesday, an appointment industry analysts said was a bid to appease Nigerian unions and ethnic groups threatening production shutdowns.

Basil Omiyi becomes the first African to hold such a senior post for an oil multinational. His promotion comes as multinationals increasingly turn to oil-rich West Africa as an alternative supplier to the Middle East.

The 58-year-old Omiyi will become managing director of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria on Sept. 1.

Shell is the biggest oil company in Nigeria, accounting for half of the 2.5 million barrels pumped daily. Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter, the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.

Omiyi, who joined Shell as a petroleum engineer in 1970, said he was “honored to be the first of what I expect will be many Nigerians to hold the post.”

Nigerian labor unions and ethnic leaders welcomed the appointment, saying they hoped it signaled the start of real change. The groups have repeatedly threatened to shut down oil production to protest the relative absence of Nigerians in top management positions.

Industrial disputes, ethnic clashes, sabotage of wells and kidnappings of oil workers by militants have at times in the past year shut down nearly 40 percent of Nigeria’s oil production.

“That’s cheering news. That’s exactly what we’ve been fighting for 40-something years, that a Nigerian should head the operations of a major multinational here,” said Brown Ogbeifun, president of the nation’s main white-collar oil workers’ union. “It’s a victory for all of us.”

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