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UpstreamOnline: Agip hostages ‘walk free’

EXTRACT: News of the Agip incident and of a Shell pipeline leak that shut down a further 210,000 bpd pushed world oil prices up last week.

THE ARTICLE

By Upstream staff

Attackers have vacated an Agip oil pumping station in Bayelsa state in southern Nigeria and freed all hostages they were holding there after they were paid off by government, police said today.

A spokesman for Agip declined to comment and there was no word on when operations at the Ogbainbiri flow station might resume. Agip’s parent, Italy’s Eni, said the attack last Tuesday had caused a “significant decrease” in output.

Agip normally exports 200,000 barrels per day through its Brass tanker terminal in Bayelsa, located in the Niger Delta.

“They have vacated the facility and released the soldiers and the civilians. The soldiers have reposted more men there to take control of the facility,” police commissioner Hafiz Ringim told Reuters from the Bayelsa state capital Yenagoa.

Asked what had prompted the attackers, irate youths from the local community, to leave the flow station, he said: “They have collected money from government.”

Hostage takings are frequent in the Niger Delta and local activists say kidnappers are usually paid off to release their captives, fuelling the cycle of violence. However, authorities rarely admit that any money has changed hands.

Eni originally said about 40 subcontractors, security and catering staff were present at the flow station at the time of the attack but gave no information on what had happened to them.

The official who headed a Bayelsa state government delegation that negotiated with the attackers, Victor Akenge, said he had seen at least eight Nigerian security forces and 16 civilian staff being held at the flow station.

“The facility was vacated late yesterday and all the hostages were accounted for,” Akenge said this morning.

The attack intensified concerns about Nigerian oil output, which has been down by about a quarter since February, mostly because of militant attacks on Shell facilities.

News of the Agip incident and of a Shell pipeline leak that shut down a further 210,000 bpd pushed world oil prices up last week.

The invasion of the flow station stemmed from local anger over a perceived failure by Agip to implement a memorandum of understanding signed with the community.

Disputes between oil companies and local residents demanding jobs and investments for their communities are frequent in the Niger Delta, an impoverished wetlands region that is home to Africa’s biggest oil industry.

Companies often sign MoUs with what they call “host communities” and disputes tend to arise when the residents feel promises have not been kept.

 

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